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RECOLLECTIONS 
OF JOHANNES BRAHMS 



RECOLLECTIONS 

OF 

JOHANNES BRAHMS 



BY 

ALBERT DIETRICH 

AND 

J. V. WIDMANN 



Translated by DORA E. HECHT 



NEW YORK 

CHARLES SCRIBNER'S SONS 

IS3-I57 FIFTH AVENUE 

1899 



TRANSLATOR'S PREFACE 

IT is now more than two years since the world 
was made the poorer by the death of that great 
musician, Johannes Brahms, and as yet nothing 
in the form of a biography has been published 
in England. This fact, together with the know- 
ledge that nowhere has Brahms, the composer, 
more ardent admirers than in England, has 
encouraged the translator to venture to offer 
to the English public these two series of 
1 Recollections/ which are the nearest approach 
to a biography as yet in existence. 

Professor Dietrich, as a member of the group 
of young musicians who gathered round Schumann 
at Dusseldorf, was on most intimate terms with 
Brahms during the years immediately following 
the latter's introduction to the public. The 
letters carry us, with some regularity, from the 



vi TRANS LA TOR'S PREFA CJS 

year 1853 up to 1874; whereas Dr J. V. 
Widmann, an eminent Swiss litterateur, is en- 
abled to give us some details of the later years 
of the musician's life (1886-97). 

Thus it will be seen that these two little 
works in nowise encroach upon one another ; 
on the contrary, the one seems to continue and 
complete the other. 

As these c Recollections ' have found great 
favour with the German-speaking lovers of 
Brahms, the translator trusts that, in spite of 
the disadvantages of translation, the book will 
give pleasure to the English admirers of the 

great composer. 

D. E. H. 

November 1899. 



CONTENTS 

ALBERT DIETRICH'S RECOLLECTIONS 

CHAP. PAGE 

I. BRAHMS AND SCHUMANN ... I 

II. LABOR OMNIA VINCIT . . 30 

III. VIENNA AND FAME. . . .51 

J. V. WI>MANJST'S RECOLLECTIONS 

CHAP. 

I. FIRST IMPRESSIONS . . . .89 

II. AN OPERA? .... 105 

HI. THREE SUMMERS IN THUN . . .119 

IV. IN ITALY ..... 146 
V. THE LAST YEARS .... 183 



RECOLLECTIONS OF 

JOHANNES BRAHMS 

BY 

ALBERT DIETRICH 



CHAPTER I 

BRAHMS AND SCHUMANN 

IN the autumn of 1851, having then attained my 
twenty-second year, I went to live at Dusseldorf 
in order to be near Schumann, for whom I had 
the deepest veneration. He and his wife received 
me with .great kindness, and ^ soon became a 
daily visitor at their house. 

Warm sympathy with the aspirations of young 
musicians was a leading feature in Schumann's 
character, and this explains the enthusiasm with 
which, in 1853, he welcomed young Brahms to 
Dusseldorf. Joachim had recommended him 
most warmly, and had also drawn Schumann's 
attention to the works of the young genius. 

Soon after Brahms's arrival, in September of 
the same year, Schumann came up to me at a 

A 



2 BRAHMS AND SCHUMANN 

practice of our choral society with an air of 
mystery, and with a happy smile said, 

* One has come of whom we shall all hear 
great things, his name is Johannes Brahms? l 

And then he led him up to me. The appear- 
ance, as original as interesting, of the youthful, 
almost boyish-looking musician, with his high- 
pitched voice and long, fair hair, made a most 
attractive impression upon me. I was particularly 
struck by the characteristic energy of the mouth, 
and the serious depths in his blue eyes. 

Brahms (then twenty years of age) was soon at 
home in Dusseldorf circles, especially amongst the 
artists and their families, and he was a frequent 
guest at the houses of Sohn, Lessing, Gude and 
Schirmer, 2 and also of the blind Fraulein Leser, 
an intimate friend of the Schumanns, at whose 
house many musical gatherings took place. His 
modest and winning manner soon gained all hearts. 

I have a particularly lively recollection of 
one evening-party which took place, soon after 
Brahms's arrival, at the house of the hospitable 
and music-loving family Euler. 

Brahms was asked to play, and executed 
Bach's Toccata in F major, and his own Scherzo in 
E flat minor with wonderful power and mastery ; 

1 *Neue Bahnen!' An enthusiastic essay about Brahms by 
Robert Schumann in the Neve Zeitschrift fur Musik. 

2 Eminent members of the well-known Dusseldorf school of 
painters. Trans. Note. 



BRAHMS AND SCHUMANN 3 

bending his head down over the keys, and, as 
was his wont, in his excitement humming the 
melody aloud as he played. He modestly de- 
precated the torrent of praise with which his 
performance was greeted. Everyone marvelled 
at his remarkable talent, and above all, we young 
musicians were unanimous in our enthusiastic 
admiration of the supremely artistic qualities of 
his playing, at times so powerful, or, when 
occasion demanded it, so exquisitely tender, but 
always full of character; his wonderful com- 
positions likewise took us by storm, so that there 
was a general desire to hear him again. 

Soon after there was an excursion to the 
Grafenberg. Brahms was of the party, and 
showed* himself here in all the amiable freshness 
and innocence of youth ; pulling turnips up from 
the fields, and cleaning them carefully, he playfully 
offered them to the ladies as refreshment On 
the homeward journey Brahms and I, the only 
musicians of the party, found ourselves alone 
together. In the course of conversation he told 
me how, when composing, he liked to think of 
the words of folk-songs, these seeming to suggest 
musical themes to his mind. Thus, in the finale 
of his sonata in C major, the words ' My heart's 
in the Highlands' had been in his mind; whilst 
in the sonata in F sharp minor, Opus 2, he had 
built up the theme of the second movement on 



4 BRAHMS AND SCHUMANN 

the words of an old German song : ' Mir ist leide, 
dass der Winter beide, Wald und auch die Haide, 
hat gemachet kahl.' 1 

These two sonatas were already masterly 
productions, full of power and imagination, and 
perfect in construction. He presented me with 
the manuscript of the second sonata, very neatly 
written and with a dedication. As a rule Brahms 
never spoke of the works on which he was engaged, 
neither did he make plans for future compositions. 

We spent the evening of that day at the 
hospitable house of Professor Sohn, whose 
pleasant music-room soon resounded with melodi- 
ous strains. Among the party were some young 
Swedish artists, whose charming singing of 
quartetts rendered them most popular in Dussel- 
dorf society. Then Brahms followed with the 
songs 'O versenk' and 'Sie ist gegangen, die 
Wonnen versanken/ at which the enthusiasm of 
his audience knew no bounds. Most interesting 
also was his playing of Schubert's tender and 
poetical fantasia in G major. He also played 
variations out of his sonata in C major on the 
old song, 'Verstohlen geht der Mond auf,' with 
which he made a deep impression. 

The young artist was of vigorous physique; 
even the severest mental work hardly seeming 

1 ' Woe is me, that the winter hath made both forest and heath 
bare.' 



BRAHMS AND SCHUMANN 5 

an exertion to him. He could sleep soundly at 
any hour of the day, if he wished to do so. In 
intercourse with his fellows he was lively, often 
even exuberant in spirits, occasionally blunt, and 
full of wild freaks. With the boisterousness of 
youth he would run up the stairs, knock at my 
door with both fists, and, without awaiting a reply, 
burst into the room. He tried to lower his 
strikingly high-pitched voice by speaking hoarsely, 
which gave it an unpleasant sound. 

Once, when expecting a visit from Joachim, 
Schumann jokingly proposed our composing a 
violin sonata all together, and then letting 
Joachim guess who was the author of each move- 
ment The first movement fell to me, the inter- 
mezzo and finale were composed by Schumann, 
whilst Brahms wrote the scherzo on a theme 
from my first movement. After having played 
the sonata with Clara Schumann, Joachim im- 
mediately recognised the author of each part. 

The manuscript of this joint production was 
presented to Joachim, Schumann writing the 
following dedication : l 

F. A. E. 
* In Erwartung der Ankunft des verehrten und geliebten 

Freundes JOSEF JOACHIM schrieben diese Senate 
* ROBERT SCHUMANN, JOHANNES BRAHMS, ALBERT DIETRICH.' 

1 ' In expectation of the arrival of their revered and beloved 
friend, Joseph Joachim, this sonata was written by R.S., J.B., A.D.* 



6 BRAHMS AND * SCHUMANN 

At that time, it was in November 1853, I 
sent the following description of Brahms to my 
friend Ernst Naumann, 1 a musician at Leipsic : 

6 The most wonderful thing about Brahms is 
that, although he had lived in complete solitude 
in Hamburg and until quite recently had known 
nothing of Schumann, Chopin and others, yet 
the ground which these moderns tread is quite 
familiar to him. His compositions written already 
in early youth soar to great heights. 

1 If his music does recall anything, it is the later 
Beethoven. Then there is a tinge of the. folk- 
song all through his works, and this it is, I 
believe, which lends such a special fascination to 
all his music. 

' Add to this the inevitability and originality 
of even the most extraordinary and unusual 
combinations, which appear everywhere quite 
naturally, almost naively ; hence the fine effect 
they produce. 

' Brahms is, as he could not, indeed, fail to be, 
a splendid fellow ; genius is written on his brow, 
and shines forth from his clear blue eyes. He 
is twenty years of age, has already suffered much 
and gone through hard times ; but he has learned 
much in this school of adversity, and his character 
has ripened early. 

1 For many years conductor at Jena, 



BRAHMS AND SCHUMANN 7 

* This summer, for the first time, he emerged 
from his unfortunate surroundings, spent some 
months with Joachim at Gottingen, in order to 
attend lectures, and then came here to the 
Rhine. 

c He was very happy in anticipation of better 
times, and in the enjoyment of the present, with 
its delightful freedom. 

'He is now at Hanover. Joachim will not 
allow him to leave him. Schumann adores 
him, as I do. Ours is the heartiest friendship 
possible.' 

I here add some letters addressed to me, as 
a proof of the desire felt by young musicians 
at a distance to make Brahms's acquaintance. 
Joachim and I had written enthusiastically to 
our mutual friend Theodor Kirchner, a talented 
composer, who had an important position as 
organist and music-teacher at Winterthur, He 
answered me as follows : 

' 2$rd October 1853. 

< DEAR FRIEND, The fact that I am writing 
this, shows you that I am not coming. The 
cause is rather serious indisposition, which will 
keep me to my room for some time to come. 
I had plenty of time to be ill the whole summer, 
but no, it had to come just now, when your letter 



8 BRAHMS AND SCHUMANN 

and Joachim's, tempting me with delights un- 
attainable, almost drive me wild. Think of me 
when you are happy! These shattered hopes 
have taken away all my zest for. any further 
journeys this winter. 

' Enjoy yourself to your heart's desire, but pity 
me a little. Farewell; let me soon hear some- 
thing from you again. Your 

'THEODOR KlRCHNER.' 

About the same time I also received a letter 
from a musician at Leipsic, with whom I was 
on intimate terms. 

'LEIPSIC, October 1853. 

'DEAR FRIEND, Do write me your honest 
opinion about Brahms. I am extremely im- 
patient to get to know him. 

' If the Schumanns come here, he must come 
with them, the new Johannes or Messiah, so 
that we may all be baptised by him. 

' What sort of a man is he otherwise ? Oh, do 
write, please, write to me soon what you think 
of him. Is he still at Dusseldorf ? What is the 
style of his music, and what has he written? 
When are the Schumanns really coming here? 
It is very necessary that it should be soon. Now, 
farewell, and answer all my questions. Your 

*v. S. . .' 



BRAHMS AND SCHUMANN 9 

Schumann had advised Brahms to go to Leip- 
sic, in order to introduce his works to the public, 
and to play there. Soon after Brahms's arrival, 
I received the following letter from my friend 
v. S. . ., of whom mention was made above. He 
writes : 

C LEIPSIC, November 1853. 

' DEAR DIETRICH, Brahms is staying with me. 
He is a grand fellow ! How grateful one must 
be to Schumann for having brought him to light 
I reckon the days he has spent here among my 
happiest. He is exactly my ideal of what an 
artist should be. And as a man ! but enough ! 
To you, who know him so well, I need say no 
more. I introduced him to Haertel, 1 Moscheles, 
David, and others. 

* Yesterday morning David was here, and 
played Brahms's violin sonata. Brahms then 
played his sonata in C major to him. David 
was struck dumb with astonishment. 

' This afternoon Marie Wieck 2 and some other 
people, probably also Rietz, 8 are coming to meet 
him. Unfortunately, he can only remain until 
Friday. However, he has promised to come 

1 Haertel, of the well-known publishing firm, Breitkopf & 
Haertel. Trans. Note. 

2 Marie Wieck, sister of Madame Schumann. Trans. Note. 

3 Rietz, a composer. Trans. NoU. 



io BRAHMS AND SCHUMANN 

again soon, and I believe he will keep his 
word. 

' Brahms is now sitting on the sofa and writing 
to you/ 

The following letter shows how thoroughly 
at home Brahms felt himself at Leipsic : 

'LEIPSIC, November 1853. 

' MY BELOVED DIETRICH, You have procured 
me a more than friendly reception here, and yet 
I can be so badly behaved as to completely for- 
bear inflicting any letters upon you ! 

' Do not be too angry with me ; letter-writing 
is such a trouble to me. I have been here since 
Thursday evening, yet have spent only one night 
at an hotel. Our dear and honoured friend, 
v. S. . ., did not allow me to remain there any 
longer ; he quite sacrifices himself for me. 

' Haertel received me extremely cordially, as 
did also Moscheles and David. If our master 
is still at Dusseldorf, please tell him about this, 
and say also how highly I revere him, how much 
I love him, and how much I should like to show 
him my gratitude. 

* Do you think Madame Schumann would take 
it amiss if I were to dedicate the sonata in F sharp 
minor to her ? Do write to me on this subject. 

* Farewell, dear friend, and think sometimes of 
your " JOHANNES/ 



BRAHMS AND SCHUMANN 11 

He left Leipsic for Hanover, greatly cheered 
and gladdened by the regard and affection shown 
him on all sides, as well as by the interest the 
publishers took in his work. Before his de- 
parture he wrote to me : 

e LEIPSIC, November 1853. 

'DEAR DIETRICH, I hope to reach Hanover 
at mid-day to-morrow, and to spend the Wednes- 
day there ; then I must continue my journey ; 
but could not you also manage to spend the 
Wednesday in the noble capital? It would be 
delightful! With such a prospect in store, I 
would even remain an extra day. 



' Your JOHANNES/ 

The following letter testifies to the warmth 
of his friendships, especially for the Schumanns : 

' HANOVER, 1853. 

' DEAREST FRIEND, Many thanks for the 
songs and for many a welcome letter. I consider 
the " Romance of the Page and the Princess " 
your finest work after the trio in C minor ; it is 
so romantic and full of genuine feeling. 

4 1 expect you are very angry with me, because 
-I so seldom overcome my laziness about writing. 
Through the visit of the Schumanns, we had 
some delightful days here. 



12 BRAHMS AND SCHUMANN 

'What shall I tell you about them? Since 
then everything here seems to me to have real 
life in it, and that means a good deal. For, as 
a rule, there is nothing living at Hanover. Give 
my warmest greetings to that noble and delight- 
ful pain Your JOHANNES.' 

But how soon was this happy circle, which 
had gathered round the beloved and honoured 
Schumanns, to be most cruelly broken up. For 
the period was now approaching of Schumann's 
first seizure with the sad illness which was to 
terminate in his being taken to Endenich near 
Bonn. During those dreadful days, I received 
the following letters : 

1 DEAR FRIEND, For days I have been 
troubled by the thought that Schumann was dis- 
satisfied with me on account of my last work, 
and that therefore he could not make up his mind 
to write and tell me his opinion, although this 
would be at variance with his habitual leniency 
of judgment towards all serious endeavour. 

' Now I have just] read the Cologne Gazette, 
and all personal considerations have given place 
to all-absorbing anxiety for the welfare of my 
dear friend and master. 

* Dear Dietrich, if you bear the least friendship 
for Brahms and me, relieve us from our misery, 



BRAHMS AND SCHUMANN 13 

and write immediately whether Schumann's state 
is really as serious as the papers say, and give 
us news of every change in his condition. It is 
too sad, when miles away, to be in anxiety about 
the life of one to whom we are bound by all 
that is best in us. I can hardly await the hour 
that will bring me news of him ; I am quite dazed 
with the horror of it all ! 

' Write soon. Your J. JOACHIM.' 

' WINTERTHUR, th March 1854. 

' MY DEAR FRIEND, Never in my life have I 
been so deeply moved and upset by anything as 
by the awful news about our beloved and 
honoured Schumann. 

' I received the first information the day before 
yesterday through Schmitt, the conductor from 
Frankfort, whom I met at Wagner's house in 
Zurich. Since then I have been nearly beside 
myself with distress. I had already begun to 
write to you, when I received your letter. Thank 
you very much for it. Although the facts re- 
main the same, I have now gained more courage, 
and still hope that God will not yet let that 
great and noble man be lost to us and the world. 
We should all be terribly lonely without him ; I, 
for one, should lose all pleasure in further en- 
deavours. And poor Clara! What must her 
sufferings be ! It is only the wonderful energy, 



I 4 BRAHMS AND SCHUMANN 

which noble women are capable of developing 
in the most terrible situations of life, which 
enables her now to bear all with such admirable 
strength and courage. 

e But if all hope were gone I do not believe 
she could bear it, 

' I am also extremely sorry for you, for I can 
easily imagine what your sufferings have been 

of late ! 

' How powerless we poor frail creatures are ! 
We have to accept all as the invisible powers 
dictate cannot alter anything cannot help, 
even if we long to sacrifice our very life ! I am 
just on the point of leaving for Basle, and have 
to-day often been thinking of joining you, for I 
have no more peace here. I have given up all 
my usual occupations, which bind me to the outer 
world, for the next month. 

' Should anything occur, during the next few 
days, that I ought to know, oh, please write to 
me soon! Give my kind greetings to Brahms. 
Farewell, and give me some good news soon. 

Your faithful friend, 

*THEODOR KIRCHNER.' 

e LEIPSIC, i$th March 1854. 

' DEAR FRIEND, I have been daily expecting 
to hear. from you, which is, the reason why I did 
not write to you as soon as I had heard of the 



BRAHMS AND SCHUMANN 15 

dreadful misfortune which has befallen our be- 
loved Schumann. I have no doubt that you 
have been deeply affected by the sad event. For 
were you not in daily intercourse with Schumann, 
and most intimate with him, not only as an artist 
but as a friend? What a blow, therefore, must 
the sad and sudden illness of your honoured 
master and model have been to you ! As for me, 
I have done nothing the last few days but brood 
over the dreadful news. 

* Now I beg you to write me all the details of 
the catastrophe as soon as possible, especially 
whether there be yet any hope of Schumann's 
ultimate recovery, how his unhappy wife bears 
this terrible blow, and particularly how you your- 
self are. I repeat my request for immediate news. 

' May God grant you strength to bear up 
bravely, and that I may soon see you arrive here 
safe and sound ! 

* If possible, do leave Dusseldorf soon and 
return to Saxony. Your faithful 

'ERNST NAUMANN.' 

My reply to Ernst Naumann ran as follows : 

1 DUSSELDORF, iqth March 1854. 

c DEAR FRIEND, I did not write to you im- 
mediately after the terrible event, only because 
my mind was in such a turmoil of agitation that 



16 BRAHMS AND SCHUMANN 

it was quite impossible for me to do so. Much to 
my relief, Brahms came as soon as he had heard 
of the catastrophe, and will probably remain here 
a couple of months. . Grimm 1 is also here now, 
and Joachim was here for two days and will 
return in a few weeks. 

'You know how Schumann's illness began, 
gradually reaching the terrible climax ; but 
there is no doubt that the seeds of it have 
long lain dormant in him. His constant cerebral 
activity and absorption in the deepest subjects, his 
almost complete severance from the outer world, 
his leaning towards spiritualism, the steady growth 
of which filled me with dread as early as last autumn 
all this has combined to unbalance this great 
and noble mind, and perhaps darken it for ever. 

'After the first violent attack of despair, his 
mind became more and more clouded ; on my 
last walk with him, he gave me cause to suspect 
his dreadful intention ; he had even gone so far 
as to betray his sinister thought to his wife. ; in 
fear and trembling we watched him and yet, 
at mid-day of the 27th of February, just as I 
was about to enter his room, he succeeded in 
making his escape through a door that was 
usually kept locked, and reached the Rhine with 
extraordinary rapidity. 

'You know how he was brought back, so 
l ' Julius Otto Grimm, conductor at Munster i/W. 



BRAHMS AND SCHUMANN 17 

spare me the description of details. That was 
the most terrible day of my life. I have not 
seen Schumann again since then ; his condition 
remains the same ; on the 4th of this month he 
was taken to Endenich, an excellent private 
asylum near Bonn. Madame Schumann receives 
news of him every other day ; the last were most 
reassuring, for an improvement seems really to 
have begun. God grant that it may last ; I 
hardly yet dare to hope; the doctors have 
observed some very bad, though not necessarily 
hopeless, symptoms. 

* Madame Schumann bears her terrible trouble 
with a strength of mind which excites one's 
greatest admiration. During the first days of 
separation from her husband, it seemed as if she 
must break down ; she became daily more and 
more pale and depressed, but now she is re- 
animated by hope ; she works as usual, and finds 
in music comfort and rest for her mind. 

' Yesterday and the day before she took the 
whole of Schumann's music to "Faust" through 
with us. We are with her daily, and I cannot 
now think of leaving Dusseldorf. . . . 

' Brahms has written a beautiful trio ; he is a 
man whom one ought to take as an example in 
every respect ; with all his depths,- natural, fresh 
and cheerful, and quite untouched by modern 
unhealthy tendencies. Grimm is a gentle, faithful 



i8 BRAHMS AND SCHUMANN 

soul. . . . You shall have immediate news, if 
there should be any important change in 
Schumann's condition. Your old friend, 

' ALBERT DIETRICH/ 

There was now no object in my remaining at 
Dusseldorf. I wished to go to Saxony, first to 
my family in the Erzgebirge, as I was much in 
need of change and rest, and then to Leipsic, 
where several of my compositions were published 
and where I conducted my first symphony, which 
however remained in manuscript form. I saw 
Madame Schumann yet once more before my 
departure, after the birth of her seventh child. 
She was removing to another house, and was 
afterwards going to her mother at Berlin. Before 
she left Dusseldorf, Brahms hurried thither in 
order to help her to arrange her husband's library 
in the new apartment. 

From Dusseldorf Brahms wrote me as 
follows : 

'DUSSELDORF, 1854. 

' DEAR ALBERT, Through my long delay in 
writing, you will receive some good news all the 
sooner. 

' Just think, a few days ago Schumann again 
asked whether he might not go to Bonn, as he 
had friends there whom he wished to visit. 



BRAHMS AND SCHUMANN 19 

Upon being questioned as to their names, he 
mentioned Wasilewski^ 

' Madame Schumann went to Berlin the day 
before yesterday. So yesterday we had to read 
the splendid news alone. Listen : 

'On Monday morning Schumann expressed 
pleasure at feeling better, went for a fairly long 
walk, and ate well After dinner he went into 
the garden again, and gathered flowers. He 
then sent a message to Fraulein R. (one of the 
ladies of the house), asking her to come to him. 
He gave her the flowers, and, upon her inquiring 
whether they were for her, asked her to send 
them to Dusseldorf. "But to whom ? " asked the 
lady. Smiling pleasantly he replied, 

' " Oh, I think you know that ! " 

1 We sent the flowers immediately to Berlin. 
I do not believe Madame Schumann will now 
be able to exist there much longer. . . . Grimm 
is still here, and sends you kind greetings. 
But stop, greetings remind me of something 
particular. 

6 1 recently made the acquaintance of Fraulein 
W., who, in the name of all Dusseldorf girls, sends 
you heartiest greetings. 

'There was a large gathering at the Eulers', 
where they are very great at hero-worship. 

1 Wasilewski, conductor at Bonn, formerly a frequent visitor at 
the Schumanns' house at Dusseldorf. 



20 BRAHMS AND SCHUMANN 

1 You were the only theme of conversation. 
"Okehr'zuriick!" 1 

'Now I have told you something about 
everybody. As for me, I must just say that I 
am very well, that I have, to my great joy, 
arranged Schumann's library of books and music, 
and now sit there the whole day long and study. 
I have seldom enjoyed anything as I do roaming 
at will through this library. 

' Farewell ; I will write to you if I should hear 
anything new about Schumann, especially if it 
were unsatisfactory. 

c 1 am very, very curious as to the next letter 
from Bonn. Your JOHANNES.' 

I cannot refrain from giving here some letters 
that I received from Madame Schumann : 

'BERLIN, list July 1854. 

'DEAR HERR DIETRICH, How long have I 
had it on my mind to thank you for your kind 
letters, but could not do so, as, until a few days 
ago, I was very unwell, and was still a semi- 
invalid when I came here. But to-day I must 
tell you that Heaven has granted me the joy 
of receiving a first token of love from my 

1 c Oh, return ! ' 



BRAHMS AND SCHUMANN 21 

beloved Robert. He gathered a nosegay. 
Then Fraulein R. (the lady whom he likes so 
much) stepped up to him and asked him whether 
she should send the flowers away ; he said " Yes/' 
and at once gave them to hr. Thereupon she 
asked him where she should send them to, and to 
whom ? He replied with a friendly look, " I 
think you know that!" I cannot tell you how 
excited I am, but until now I never knew how 
difficult it is to bear a great joy! I have to 
summon all my self-control in order not to let 
myself be completely overwhelmed by the feel- 
ings of hope, doubt, endless longing, which 
beset my heart ; it often seems to me that my 
mind must give way, it is too much after all 
that I have gone through, and what is yet 
before me ! 

* I must just add that I am staying here with 
my mother, and shall remain another week. If 
I am calmer, I shall perhaps return on the 3rd, 
by way of Leipsic. 

' I should so much like to see all my dear 
friends again, and you amongst them, but I 
cannot come to any decision as yet But tell 

of my joy at having once more received a 

sign of his love. 

' Ah, what is Love what endless possibilities 
does it contain ! 

1 But enough ! You see from my handwriting 



22 BRAHMS AND SCHUMANN 

how difficult it is for me to write, still I wanted 
you to rejoice in my joy, as you in faithful friend- 
ship have suffered with me. Most heartily yours, 

'CLARA SCHUMANN.' 

* Joachim and Waldemar send hearty greet- 
ings. Yesterday I had also a kind letter from 
Brahms. 7 

From a letter addressed to me by Julius Otto 
Grimm : 

' DUSSELDORF, August 1854. 

1 He (Schumann) is no worse than usual ; on 
the contrary we have more hope than ever. Ten 
days ago I was at Bonn, and saw him myself, 
and heard him converse perfectly sensibly with Dr 
Peters. It was ever his habit to speak but little, 
and that only when addressed, so his silence is 
not unusual ; we must only be glad that he has 
been so long (several weeks) without a fresh 
attack of excitement. Last week he once had 
aural delusion, but only very slight. 

1 Brahms has also seen him. This is how 
it happened. A week ago to-day, Madame 
Schumann went to Ostend for the baths. Then 
we two could not stand it here any longer, and 
went to Cologne, where we took a steamer. 

' We separated at Mayence. Kreisler (as 
Brahms then liked to call himself) went to the 



BRAHMS AND SCHUMANN 23 

Black Forest, and I to Nassau, in order to 
visit some friends from St Petersburg. But 
I had bad luck everywhere, found no friends, 
and, turning to the right about, went back to 
Dusseldorf. 

I Things did not go much better with Brahms. 
An attack of home-sickness, inexplicable to me, 
compelled him to turn back at Ulm, although 
he had really intended going to the Alps, and 
a few days after my return, he surprised me 
here. On the way back, we were both (that 
is each singly) at Endenich, and obtained per- 
mission from Dr Peters to hide behind an open 
window, whence we might see and listen to 
Schumann. 

I 1 cannot describe to you my feelings when I 
saw my beloved master under such sad circum- 
stances. I could hardly control the trembling 
which seized me. 

' Brahms was similarly affected however, I 
must say that Schumann looked very well; he 
has become somewhat stouter, otherwise there 
is no change in his appearance ; there is nothing 
insane in his eyes, and his whole manner is 
the same as of old, so mild and gentle* 

' Madame Schumann writes quite contentedly 
from Ostend, she has even sent for a piano 
from Klemm's, and will give a soir/e the day 
after to-morrow, Fraulein Leser is also there. 



24 BRAHMS AND SCHUMANN 

But we long for this course of baths to be 
ended, and hope to be all together again in a 
fortnight . . . ' 

Madame Schumann herself longed to get 
back, and did indeed soon return to her friends 
at Dusseldorf, but left them again in October 
in order to go on a concert tour, thus continu- 
ing her activity with most admirable strength of 
mind. 

From Ostend she wrote me the following 

kind letter : 

c OSTEND, 2%th August 1854. 

'DEAR HERR DIETRICH, I cannot let this 
day pass without sending you a greeting from 
afar. May Heaven grant you every blessing, 
and above all, give you good health and strength 
for work, so that next winter may, as I hope, 
be a fruitful one for you. 

' Perhaps you already know that I am staying 
at Ostend on account of the sea-bathing. I shall 
remain here until the 7th of September, and 
then return to Dusseldorf, where I am longing 
to be. It is only the feeling of duty that makes 
me able to bear it here; I was simply obliged 
to do something for myself now, and so decided 
on this. The result only can prove whether the 
baths have done me good; so far I do not feel 
aay particularly beneficial effects. On Ithe 



BRAHMS AND SCHUMANN 25 

whole, my dear husband is improving, but 
how slow is this progress! 

'With what a hopeful heart did I return 
from Berlin, and now, a month after, how 
little change! God alone knows when I shall 
see him again! Grimm and Brahms have 
both seen him, that is, listened to him, and 
found him looking very well, and with the 
old gentle smile on his countenance. He has 
also been several times to Bonn, but has never 
yet inquired after anyone. 

'Once more I received some flowers, soon 
after the first ones he had himself gathered 
them for me they were roses and carnations. 

' I ought not to write much, and so I must 
say good-bye now, although I should like to 
write much more. I hope to see you and 
my other dear friends at Leipsic in October. 
Fraulein Leser, who is with me here, sends 
you friendly greetings, and also joins me in 
wishing you all good! Once more accept my 
heartiest greetings, and retain also in this new 
year your friendship and sympathy for him, 
the beloved one, and for me. Your 

' CLARA SCHUMANN/ 

Half a year later I received news of Madame 
Schumann and her husband through a letter 
from Fraulein Leser; it was couched in a 



26 BRAHMS AND SCHUMANN 

more hopeful strain. Writing early in 1855, 
she says : 

'After the great exertions of the winter, 
Madame Schumann had to give up the journey 
to England for this year. Thank God, she 
has always good news from her dear husband. 
He writes her splendid letters, perfectly clear 
and sensible, and ever more and more affec- 
tionate, which is probably the best sign of 
his progress towards recovery. You may 
imagine how happy his dear wife is a!bout 
this; her longing to see her dearly beloved 
grows more and more intense the nearer she 
believes the goal to be. I only fear that this 
desire will not be realised so soon. The doctors 
are very careful, and will only allow them to 
meet when there are no longer any prejudicial 
consequences to be feared. 

' Herr Brahms has visited the dear patient 
He was with him for four hours, played to 
him, and the "Csesar Overture" as a duet with 
him. When Brahms wanted to leave, Schumann 
could not part from him; he accompanied him 
to Bonn, showed him the minster and 
Beethoven's monument, and only left him 
when Brahms had to hurry to the station 
so as not to miss the train. 

''Brahms could not dwell sufficiently upon 



BRAHMS ND SCHUMANN 27 

the warmth and kindness of his (Schumann's) 
inquiries after everyone, and particularly how 
constantly he reverted to his beloved Clara! 

' Madame Schumann sends you hearty greet- 
ings, and will write to you soon. 

' I have written you all this in detail, because 
I know what deep interest you take, and how 
heartily you rejoice with us. Yours, in old 
friendship, R. LESER.' 

Meanwhile, in 1855, I had been appointed 
conductor at Bonn. Brahms was called to the 
Court at Detmold, in order to give lessons to 
some members of the ducal family, and to 
conduct a small chorus. Grimm went to 
Gottingen, where he soon became conductor. 
Madame Schumann continued to make long 
concert tours. 

Unfortunately, after the apparent improve- 
ment, Schumann's condition became more and 
more hopeless. 

The following letter was written to me 
by Madame Schumann from London, on April 
15, 1856:- 

*DEAR HERR DIETRICH, Enclosed you will 
find a long letter from Gisela von Arnim. 1 Will 
you be so kind as to hand it on to Johannes 

X A daughter of Bettina von Arnim. (Goethe's Letters to a 
Child). Trans. Note. 



28 BRAHMS AND SCHUMANN 

on his return. I have yet to thank you and 
Professor Jahn most heartily for the sympathy 
you show Johannes in his undertaking; it is 
a great comfort to me that he does not stand 
alone, it would be too difficult for him. 

' I can tell you but little good news about me. 
My heart is ever in Germany. I am living 
through dreadful days. I played at the Philhar- 
monic Concert yesterday with a bleeding heart. 
I had had a letter from Johannes in the morning, 
which made me feel the utter hopelessness of 
my beloved husband's state, although he most 
lovingly tried to represent everything as mildly 
as possible. I do not know whence I obtained 
the strength to play ; at home my efforts were 
vain, and yet it went all right in the evening. 
Think kindly sometimes of your 

c CLARA SCHUMANN.' 

'I believe that the enclosed letter is well worthy 
of consideration. Johannes is sure to com- 
municate its contents to you and Professor Jahn. 
I have just heard something about cold water 
treatment for diseases of the brain, which makes 
me very anxious to try it for my husband. 
Please tell Johannes that I shall write to him 
about it to-morrow.' 

On the 29th July -1856, death released the 



BRAHMS AND SCHUMANN 29 

beloved master! he, who in life was so unique 
in the greatness of his creative power, with the 
flawless character, depth 'of mind and sensitive 
feelings, the splendid man, of whom it was hard 
to say which was worthiest of admiration the 
man or the artist ! 

Brahms and Joachim hastened to Bonn, and 
thus we three friends, walking close behind the 
coffin, accompanied the ardently loved and 
honoured master to his last resting-place. 

Subsequently Madame Schumann once asked 
me to lay a laurel wreath on her husband's grave, 
and wrote as follows : 

' Will you be so kind as to lay the accompany- 
ing laurel wreath on Robert's grave on the 29th. 
It is now two years that he is at rest ! People 
always say that time heals wounds ; I do not 
find that true, for I feel the loss daily more 
painfully, and no longer know any happiness in 
life. 1 

She also came to Bonn several times with her 
daughters, in order to visit her husband's grave ; 
at such times I always accompanied hen 



CHAPT ER II 

LABOR OMNIA V I N C I T 

I HAD a busy and interesting 'time as conductor 
of the Subscription Concerts at Bonn. The 
society of that town then contained representatives 
of almost every art and science, which lent a 
particular interest to our social gatherings. In 
Professor Otto Jahn, the excellent biographer of 
Mozart, I found a valued and paternal friend, 
with whom I had constant intercourse, and whose 
lucid mind and interesting conversation enlightened 
me on many subjects relating to art. 

In 1859 I founded a home of my own, having 
led to the altar Clara Sohn, daughter of the 
painter, Professor Carl Sohn of Dusseldorf. 

Our first spring at Bonn was made delightful 
by the presence of our dear friends Brahms, 
Joachim, Heinrich v. S, . . , Stockhausen, and for 
a few days even Clara Schumann. The two 
former proposed spending some months at Bonn. 

Spring had burst in with wonderful splendour 
and beauty. This season on the banks of the 
RHne has something enchanting about it. The 

30 



LABOR OMNIA VINCIT 31 

forests of blossoming fruit-trees, the luxuriant 
hedges of hawthorn on the banks of the river, the 
singing of the nightingales in the clear, summer- 
like nights, in the distance the beautiful outline 
of the Siebengebirge, still aglow with roseate 
sunset brightness all this tempted us to under- 
take many delightful excursions. That was a 
merry and sunny life ! And withal, rich in 
artistic enjoyment 

For after six years of silence Brahms had 
brought with him a number of new and splendid 
compositions, to which we were now introduced. 
There were the serenades in A major and D 
major, the 'Ave Maria' for female chorus, the 
* Funeral Hymn ' for mixed chorus, songs and 
romanzas, and the piano concerto in D minor. 

He had employed the years spent in seclusion, 
partly at Detmold but mostly at Hamburg, in 
serious study, and besides those mentioned above 
had also written a choral mass in canonical form, 
which, however, was not published. 

In one of the most beautiful villas on the 
Coblentz Strasse on the opposite side of the 
Rhine, the house of the artistic and hospitable 
family Kyllmann, we had frequent gatherings, 
always in company with Professor Jahn, for the 
purpose of performing chamber music, and of 
enjoying Stockhausen's delightful singing, 

How keenly we relished these musical treats. 



32 LABOR OMNIA VINCIT 

Our artist friends also came frequently to our 
small home, and at the end of this happy time 
joined us at the christening of our first child. 
Brahms, Joachim and Heinrich v. S. . . were the 
sponsors. 

A few days later this delightful circle dispersed, 
our friends returning to their several spheres of 
activity. The first letter from Brahms found me 
at Dusseldorf, whither I had gone with my small 
family to spend Christmas. It ran : 

'HAMBURG, Christmas, 1860. 

* DEAR FRIEND, I really believe you will be 
at Dusseldorf to-morrow, and so my poor 
serenade will not be able to figure on your pretty 
Christmas table as it wished to do. But still it 
may risk it, and the good intention may procure 
it a pleasant though belated reception. I sup- 
pose you are already in possession of the " Bonn 
Serenade/ 1 I, unfortunately, have not yet got 
it (from the publisher), and therefore cannot lay 
it upon anybody's table. 

1 1 hear that you are determined to leave Bonn, 
and that soon. May I not hear where you are 
going ? Do write soon, 

'Greet your wife heartily, and little Max 
Hermann Carl ^Your JOHANNES/ 

In the spring of 1861 I was appointed con- 



LABOR OMNIA VINCJT 33 

ductor of the Granducal Orchestra at Oldenburg. 
Although it was difficult for us to part from the 
lovely Rhine, our dear relatives at Dusseldorf 
and our many friends, still it was with cheer- 
ful anticipations that we began life in our 
new home, where we were received with great 
kindness. 

As a musician I had good cause to be satisfied 
with the well-arranged institutions I found at 
Oldenburg ; it was a pleasure to work with such 
a good and capable orchestra, and under a kind 
and highly artistic Intendant. 

A few weeks after our removal, the following 
letter from Brahms arrived : 

' HAMBURG, June 1861. 

' In order that my thanks for your letter, with 
which you recently gave me such pleasure, 
should not be longer delayed, I will write a 
few lines to you now, although in haste. 

1 You may imagine how pleased I was to hear 
how contented you are at Oldenburg; I wish 
most heartily that you may long continue to be 
so. But, first of all, to answer the best thing in 
your letter, as far as I can say, you will find me 
here in July, or, in fact, at any time. But yet 
in every case please write .me a line beforehand ; 
a man with so few ties, as I am, can easily dis- 
appear over night. It would be delightful if 

c 



34 LABOR OMNIA VINCIT 

you came, and I think you would like Hamburg 
for a few days. 

* That my music has found a warm corner in 
your heart is to me a precious fact ; all the more 
so, because I myself cannot believe that it con- 
tains sufficient worth for such a good musician as 
you are. 

1 Please let me have your new songs ; in fact, if 
you like, let me always see your new things. I 
would also have liked to have asked you for your 
trio, which I, unfortunately, do not possess ; per- 
haps you have an extra copy. 

* I do not know if I have sent you my con- 
certo? Otherwise it is at your disposal. Let 
us remain good neighbours, write occasionally, 
but the most friendly thing is a neighbourly visit, 
and that right soon. 

'Greet your dear wife, and little Max Her- 
mann Carl! In hearty friendship, your 

'JOHANNES BRAHMS.' 

After the birth of our second child I received 
the following congratulatory letter : 

'itfhfuZy 1861. 

' DEAREST ALBERT, My heartiest congratula- 
tions ! I hope all is going on well, and that the 
little maiden grows and blooms. I suppose she 



LABOR OMNIA VINC1T 35 

will be called something like Thusnelda Maria 
Theresia ? l 

* Thanks also for the songs. Amongst them 
I found some of last year's dear friends, and was 
delighted with the simple, expressive melodies. 

c I am now living most charmingly in the 
country (half-an-hour from town). You would 
be surprised how nice it is here. 

' Perhaps I can take you out here with me, 
and in every case, my room in Hamburg at my 
parents' is quite at your disposal. Anyhow, I 
hope it will be possible to make it pleasant for 
you here. 

' Herr Av6 Lallement, who wishes to make 
your acquaintance, would like to know the date 
of your arrival some time beforehand, as, in accord- 
ance with that, he would arrange a projected 
absence from Hamburg. I should also like it, 
so as to be able to begin to rejoice in the 
prospect of your coming. 

* Hearty greetings to your wife, and do write 
and come soon. Heartily yours, 

' JOHANNES/ 

But meanwhile, as shown by the following ex- 
tract from a letter from our kind friend Professor 
Jahn, we had gone through dark and anxious 
days in our new home : 

1 Unfortunately, we had omitted to give our boy the name 
Johannes, to which fact this is a teasing allusion. 



36 LABOR OMNIA VINCIT 

' BONN, z$th August 1861. 

' Above all, I hope, dear Dietrich, that 
my congratulations may find you free from the 
serious anxiety about your wife, of which I 
heard with great regret and sympathy. How 
often it happens just when one has been 
transplanted into a new sphere, with all its 
attendant difficulties, that one has simultaneously 
to struggle against unforeseen troubles, as if 
forced by tribulation to take deeper root in the 
new soil ! 

c I wish most heartily that no great sacrifice 
may be demanded of you, and that you may 
only feel the advantages of your present home. 
For what you tell me about your sphere of 
activity, as also about your whole existence, and 
what I hear from all sides sounds so pleasant 
in all essentials, that I can but hope that you 
may get to feel quite at home and happy there. 
I have also heard hints dropped of bigger 
musical works with which you are occupied ; I 
wish you both a favourable frame of mind and 
inspiration, and then there can be no doubt as 
to the result/ 

This wish, that I might take deep root at 
Oldenburg, was soon realised; this was mainly 
due to the extremely friendly reception accorded 



LABOR OMNIA VINCIT 37 

to me and my family by all phases of society 
there. 

It was at this time that I undertook the 
proposed trip to Hamburg, in order to visit 
Brahms, and stayed with his parents in an old 
and narrow street in the town called the Fuhlent- 
wiete. Brahms himself, in order to be undis- 
turbed in his work, was living very comfortably 
at the house of a Frau Dr Rosing in the suburb 
of Hamm. It was to her that he dedicated one 
of his most beautiful works, the piano quartett 
in A major. Contrary to his custom, he played 
me some of the sketches for it, from which I 
gained the conviction that it would be a work of 
great beauty and Importance. 

I slept in his room, which was full of interest 
to me. I was surprised at the extent of his 
library, which from early youth he had collected 
with untiring zeal. Some of these books he had 
bought from the second-hand dealers who fre- 
quent the bridges at Hamburg. There were 
some remarkable old things, amongst others 
Mattheson's Volkommener Kapellmeister. 

At breakfast I used to sit cosily with his 
dear old mother, whose kindness of heart was 
only equalled by her simple manners ; her 
Johannes was always the inexhaustible subject 
of our animated conversation. She told me 
how, as a boy, he was passionately fond of 



3 8 LABOR OMNIA VINCIT 

tin soldiers, and could hardly bear to cease 
playing with them ; and that even now, at the 
age of twenty-eight years, he kept them locked up 
in his desk. Later on, when he was showing me 
his library and also the contents of his desk, 
he pointed out to me the different boxes of 
soldiers, saying he could not bring himself to 
part with such dear mementoes of childhood. 
His father usually left the house early, in order 
to fulfil his professional engagements as music- 
teacher and player of the double bass. I only 
remained a short time with the dear people, 
and used to spend almost the whole day with 
Brahms at his charming country retreat, where 
we looked through his newest works, going into 
every detail an occupation which was to me 
a source of keen delight. 

During those days we enjoyed the musical 
treat of listening to a charming female quartett, 
who used to sing Brahms' s ' Songs for Four Voices' 
most delightfully, in the neighbouring garden. 
Brahms introduced me to them ; they were the 
two Fraulein Volkers, younger sisters of Frau Dr 
Rosing, and their two friends, Fraulein Garbe 
and Fraulein Reuter. Brahms had happened 
to hear this quartett at a wedding he was 
playing the organ and had liked their singing 
so much that he had asked the young girls 
whether they would practise his 'Ave Maria/ 



LABOR OMNI A VINCIT 39 

which he had just composed, which proposal 
they were delighted to accept. 

This quartett was the beginning of a small 
choral society, as a few more ladies joined them. 
Brahms promised them that if they would appear 
punctually and regularly he would always provide 
something new for them to learn, for * fix oder 
nix/ * was his motto. They also sang old Italian 
church music, which Brahms arranged for a 
female chorus. In the autumn the practices 
were brought to a close by a small performance 
in the Petrikirche. The following year he again 
conducted the little society for a few months, 
until he left Hamburg. 

I had had an opportunity of hearing these 
four young girls at Dusseldorf the previous year. 
They were then, in 1860, on a tour down the 
Rhine with their brother, and came to Dusseldorf 
for the great Rhenish Musical Festival. In re- 
sponse to a request from Brahms, they were 
asked by Madame Schumann to sing some of 
his * Songs for Four Voices/ one morning at 
Fraulein Leser's before a large gathering of 
musicians, amongst whom were also Joachim 
and Stockhausen. This they were most willing 
to do, and everyone was delighted with their 
singing. 

After these happy days in Hamburg, I re- 

1 c Thoroughness before everything.' 



4 6 LABOR OMNIA VINCIT 

turned home for the christening of our youngest 
child, whom we named Clara, after our beloved 
and honoured Clara Schumann. 

I was now busy with the preparations for 
my first winter concert, at which Madame 
Schumann made her first appearance in Olden- 
burg. Her playing excited the greatest en- 
thusiasm, and everyone felt the charm of her 
noble and attractive personality. How happy 
were all who came into closer contact with her ! 

The succeeding concerts were rendered de- 
lightful by the presence of Joachim and Stock- 
hausen, and finally of Brahms. It was thus that 
we saw all our dear old friends again in our new 
home. 

I here call to mind another charming youthful 
artist who appeared at Oldenburg during our 
first years there ; this was Fraulein Amalie Weiss, 
the future Frau Joachim. She came to us from 
Hanover with the highest recommendations, 
having there won all hearts by her wonderful 
voice and her noble rendering of the finest music ; 
her sweetness and true womanliness soon aroused 
our sympathy and admiration. 

With what interest did our little musical world 
await the coming of the young musician Johannes 
Brahms, who was now to make his appearance 
as composer and pianist. 

Brahms's reply to my first invitation to Olden 
burg ran as follows : 



LABOR OMNIA VINCIT 41 

'HANOVER, 1862. 

' DEAR FRIEND, I have been here since some 
weeks, and only received your letter via Hamburg. 
I am going home to-morrow, and am just writing 
you a few lines in great haste. 

* I am much drawn to visit you, and to get 
to know so many whose names I have so often 
heard mentioned as your friends, otherwise I 
would say no. So I shall come to you, and shall 
then stay as long as I can allow myself to be 
idle. 

c What shall I play ? Beethoven or Mo- 
zart ? C minor, A major or G major ? Advise 
me ! 

c And for the second part, Schumann, Bach, 
or might I venture upon some new variations 
of my own ? 

* Of course you will conduct my serenade. 
We have played my quartetts a good deal here ; 
I shall bring them with me, and shall be glad if 
they meet with your approval. 

'Apropos! I suppose I must have fifteen 
louisd'ors remuneration, but would like to have 
it so arranged that if I should play at Court, 
that would be paid for extra. Money is very 
necessary to me, consequently my time is precious, 
and I am unwilling to allow myself to be tempted 
to concerts ; but if the one has to be, the other 
must follow. 



42 LABOR OMNIA VINCIT 

'Write to me at Hamburg, Hamm, 

'Soon more, and excuse haste. 

'Greet the wife, D. M. and C. Heartily 

JOHANNES.' 

Sllortly after I received the following letter : 



FRIEND, If possible, I shall leave here 
on MIonday evening and travel to you by way of 
Bremen. 

'Us that the most practical route? How 
about: .the further journey to Oldenburg? Does 
one slim ply get into another carriage ? 

'So I shall play Beethoven's concerto in G 
majiorr, Have you got the parts ? 

'Ms regards the second number there is time 
enough, my memory helps me a good deal, and 

Singers follow obediently. 

'My second serenade was recently given at 
York. As far as I know it was altogether 
dies Hirst performance since the pieces have been 
in punt! 

'lit is beautiful out here at Hamm ; the sun 
shiineiis so brightly in my room that, if I did not 
sees tfte bare trees through the window, I should 
lelitwe it was summer. 

'Write me a line about the journey, 

'OGreet your wife and the little ones, Heartily 
;yoius, 



LABOR OMNIA VINC2T 43 

Soon after this letter, Brahms arrived at our 
house. He was the pleasantest visitor imaginable, 
always amiable and unassuming, always in good 
spirits ; a child himself when with the children, 
to whom he was devoted. 

He was happiest in simple surroundings, and 
considered our modest lot most enviable. How 
often did he express his pleasure at being a 
witness of such happiness, and had circumstances 
allowed him to do so, it might then have been 
the right moment for him to have founded a 
home of his own. For he was much attracted 
by a young girl, who at that time frequented our 
house. One evening when she and our other 
guests had left us we had been a very lively 
party he remarked with quiet decision, * I like 
her, I should like to marry her ; such a girl could 
also make me happy/ She was a very nice girl, 
blooming, healthy, natural, clever and with a very 
active mind. 

The night before the concert, Brahms de- 
lighted the orchestra by playing to them his 
variations on a theme by Handel. These 
variations are wonderfully beautiful and full of 
true genius; they close with a fugue that is 
perfectly fascinating, and that is saying much of 
a fugue! 

His rendering of this beautiful work raised 
the enthusiasm of the members of the orchestra 



44 LABOR OMNIA VINCIT 

to such a pitch that at the concert itself the 
performance of the G major concerto was simply 
perfect, much to Brahms's satisfaction and the 
delight of the audience! But a laurel wreath, 
which had been hung over his chair, he modestly 
laid underneath the pianoforte ! 

In his next letter from Hamburg, he wrote 
(1861): 

1 DEAR ALBERT, Ever since I returned from 
Oldenburg I have wanted to write you a long 
letter saying how happy I was with you, and how 
grateful I am for all your kindness. 

* Now my thanks are just as warm, but rather 
late; well, you are not angry with me on that 
account, are you ? 

'Stockhausen wanted to come here in the 
beginning of May. At his desire I have arranged 
several of Schubert's songs ("Schwager Kronos" 
and " Memnon," for instance) for orchestra. So 
it is possible that we may ask leave to go to you 
for a rehearsal, as here that would mean much 
trouble and expense, 

1 Otherwise I suppose I shall sooner see you 
here, for I hope that you have not forgotten your 
promise of coming. Could not that be soon ? 
Everything is in blossom now, and out here at 
Hamm it is simply a treat to listen to the 
nightingales singing amongst the budding trees. 



LABOR OMNIA VINCIT 45 

' I am sending you some novelties ; unfortun- 
ately, I could not find a score of the sextett. 
The "Handel Variations" (published by Breitkopf 
& Haertel), and the Marienlieder for full chorus 
(publisher, Rieter) will soon follow. 

' I often think of you, of your cosy home, and 
of all Oldenburg. Take my heartiest greetings, 
and greet all who were so kind to me. 

' Let me hear from you sometime or other, 
and I will write again soon and more. In old 
friendship, your JOHANNES/ 

The inspiriting influence of Brahms's visit to 
Oldenburg was long felt there. At our own 
house, and in wider circles beyond, he came in 
contact with many people, who all appreciated 
his earnestness as well as the humour which 
frequently showed itself in his remarks. 

In the following summer, 1862, I met Brahms 
in the beginning of June at the musical festival 
at Dusseldorf. 

We arranged to go into the country together, 
and as we knew that Madame Schumann and her 
children were then at the neighbouring baths of 
Munster am Stein, near Kreuznach, we took up 
our abode a quarter of an hour away in a large 
and comfortable house at the foot of the romantic 
Ebernburg. Brahms and I worked industriously, 
Madame Schumann practised, and in the after- 



4 6 LABOR OMNIA VINCIT 

noons, if we did not go on an expedition in the 
neighbourhood, we used to discourse sweet music 
to our hearts' desire. 

Brahms here composed the first two books of his 
wondrously beautiful ' Magelonen Lieder.' They 
were the most lovely songs he had yet written. 

It was also at Munster am Stein that Brahms 
showed me jhg^str-nrcjvement of his symphony 
inJ>tniTfor which, however, only appeared ~much 
'later and with considerable alterations. 

At that time I wrote as follows to my wife 
about this sojourn with Brahms : 

* In the evening we spent hours at Madame 
Schumann's in listening to the most delightful 
music. She played a big sonata of Schumann's 
to us, and then the sextett of Brahms with me, 
and finally, Brahms played the most lovely bits 
out of his grand quartetts and other things. 

'The longer I am with Brahms, the more 
do I love and honour him. His disposition is 
as amiable and cheerful as full of depths of 
seriousness. It is true he frequently teases the 
ladies by making joking assertions in such a 
grave manner that Madame Schumann in 
particular takes them quite seriously, which 
gives rise to most amusing discussions, though 
sometimes there is danger of offence being 
given, and then I step in as mediator, Brahms 



LABOR OMNTA VINCIT 47 

liking to increase the misunderstanding so as 
to be able to end up with a hearty laugh at the 
ladies. It is this, to me, charmingly humorous 
characteristic which causes him to be so often 
misunderstood. He must be rather uncomfort- 
able company for ladies who are indulging in 
sentimental moods (for instance, after listening 
to Madame Schumann's delightful playing) ; but 
that does not prevent Brahms from being very 
serious and quiet when it suits the occasion.' 

When, after a fortnight, Madame Schumann 
left, we went to visit our friend Heinrich von 
S. . ., whom we knew to be in the neighbour- 
hood. With him we travelled for about a week, 
Brahms being our leader. First we went to 
Speyer, and then on by train to Carlsruhe, where 
we visited some of our artist friends Lessing, 
Schirmer, Schrotter, who had removed thither 
from Dusseldorf. 

At last we separated. 

Towards the end of 1862 Brahms wrote : 

* BASLE, 1862. 

* DEAR FRIEND, Now I am really en route, 
and it looks as if I shall really have to play before 
several audiences. 

' I made a beginning at Carlsruhe with my 
concerto, and the people were so surprisingly 



48 LABOR OMNIA VINCIT 

kind as to be quite satisfied, to recall me, praise 
me, and all that sort of thing. 

* Now I am writing to you from the Riggen- 
bachs' at Basle, where we talked of you last 
night. On my big tour I shall see Zurich, 
Mannheim, Cologne, and at Christmas or New 
Year, you at Oldenburg. 

' Do think over what we shall play together ? 
Could we not venture my D minor concerto at 
the orchestral concert ? We executants enjoyed 
it at Carlsruhe, and it seemed as if the public 
did not object to it. 

* For a quartett evening, I can with a good 
conscience recommend my horn trio, and your 
horn player would do me a great favour if he 
would do like the Carlsruhe man and practise 
the French horn for some weeks beforehand, so 
as to be able to play it on that. 

1 1 shall bring with me some new Magelonen 
and other songs. 

1 In Oldenburg I stall-have abundance of time to 
enjoy the pleasures both of friendship and of music. 

' Greet your dear ones, and do your best that 
my prospects at Oldenburg may continue favour- 
able, Right heartily yours, 

'JOHANNES BR.' 

All this so pleasantly planned by our friend 
came to pass in due course. He wrote : 



LABOR OMNIA VINCIT 49 

'HAMBURG, 1862. 

* DEAR ALBERT, Your letter came to-day, 
and a few hasty lines must be my reply. 

' From about the 2oth to 28th December I shall 
be at Detmold, and shall therefore come to you 
about New Year, play my concerto on the 5th, 
and then have time for everything imaginable. 
I have reason to be very satisfied with my 
journey, as in every respect it was pleasanter 
than I had anticipated. It really is a pity 
that I cannot overcome my dislike to this rest- 
less life, and have therefore resolved to give 
it up. 

' Now I have no time, so will tell you every- 
thing verbally. 

* Greet your dear wife, and au revoir I Your 

'JOHANNES/ 

Everyone was deeply impressed by the horn 
trio, and by its originality and romanticism. 
Some years later, when we were wandering 
together on the wooded heights above Baden- 
Baden, Brahms showed me the spot where the 
theme of the first movement of this work came 
into his mind. 

The piano concerto in D minor was one of 
the grandest of his youthful compositions. I 
have seen the original sketch of this concerto in 
the form of a sonata for two pianos. The slow 

D 



50 LABOR OMN1A VINC1T 

scherzo was afterwards used as the Funeral 
March in the * German Requiem.' 

Unfortunately, this happy time together was 
only of short duration, as Brahms was requested 
to play at a concert elsewhere ; however, he 
promised to repeat the visit ere long. 



CHAPTER III 

VIENNA AND FAME 

A LETTER from Brahms from Hamburg, January 
1863: 

' DEAR FRIEND, On Monday I am going to 
Vienna / At that thought I am as happy as a 
child ! 

' Of course I do not know how long I shall 
stay there ; we shall have to remain in un- 
certainty, but hope that we shall yet see each 
other sometime this winter. 

'The symphony in C minor is not finished, 
but a string quintett in F minor (2 V. Celli) is, 
and I should like nothing better than to send it 
to you, and for you to write to me about it, but 
yet I had better take it with me. 

* You shall have it presently. 

* Enclosed are my " Handel Variations," the 
Marienlieder have not yet come. 

* The title-page of your trio is still unfinished. 
' Greet the Oldenburg friends. 

6 I beg you not to leave me quite without 
51 



52 VIENNA AND FAME 

letters. For the present you could write through 
Haslinger, or Wessely and Busing. 

* Meanwhile I bid you, dear Albert, and your 
wife, a hearty farewell. Your JOHANNES.' 

The new string quintett, that Brahms had 
completed before his departure for Vienna, was 
another masterpiece ; ever grander, more and 
more beautiful were his ideas, as his Muse 
soared ever higher! This work is overflowing 
with evidences of inspiration and learning, but 
it is also characterised by a mood of greater 
asperity than is usual with him. 

Later on it appeared in the form of the 
well-known piano quintett, and was also arranged 
as a sonata for two pianos, both under Opus 34. 

I received the first letter from Vienna in April 
1863. 

* DEAREST FRIEND, Hitherto I have waited 
in vain for your trio and your photograph ! 

*I shall probably remain here until the ist of 
May ; do send me the photograph of yourself and 
your wife. 

'And write me a few words, how you and 
everyone imaginable are. If you still intend 
your trio for me, you had now better send it to 
Hamburg, whither I shall soon go, drawn by 
my desire to see my parents. 



VIENNA AND FAME 53 

'Do write to me how long you remain at 
Oldenburg ; perhaps I shall run over to you from 
Hamburg. 

' I suppose you are going to the festival at 
Dusseldorf? 

' It just strikes me that I might send you my 
Marienlieder and four hand variations, which have 
recently come. And I also add some pieces from 
an Easter cantata of Schubert, which I have 
copied from the manuscript, also the complete 
text, which I beg you to be sure to keep, so that 
I may get it back again. These are not the 
finest parts of " Lazarus" ; on the contrary, I just 
copied the beginning and end of the first part. 

'This is what most of the music is like, and 
Simon's aria ! Oh, if I could send you the 
whole, you would be delighted at such sweetness ! 

'You can keep it until I go to Hamburg, 
then please return it with the text and your 
trio. 

' If you wish to copy it, do so, but only for 
yourself. Although they do not make any 
difficulties here with Schubert's manuscripts, and 
I am not in the least pledged to secrecy, still it is 
really Spina's property. 

' Do write a few lines soon. 

' With hearty greetings to you and your wife 
and other friends, Your 

' JOHANNES. 



54 VIENNA AND FAME 

' Finally I enclose a quintett, which * you can 
also keep until I come to Hamburg. 

'N.B. I must beg you urgently for your 
photograph, for here there are no people who 
could make one forget one's old friends, even if 
one were disposed that way/ 

On the 7th of May 1863, his thirtieth birthday, 
Brahms returned to his parents at Hamburg. 

He brought much that was beautiful with him 
from Vienna, manuscripts and pictures, and also 
all Schubert's works, a present from Spina. 
Upon a letter from Stockhausen he wrote to me 
as follows : 

* I greet you heartily, dear Albert ! and am 
now able to receive the most delightful letter 
from you any day, as well as photographs of you 
and your wife (for which I beg you most particu- 
larly). You might perhaps send " Lazarus " to 
Joachim, but with a warning that it must be 
returned to me. Best greetings. Your 

' JOHANNES.' 

How glad we were to know our friend near us 
again. I wrote to him, sending the wished-for 
photographs, and received the following reply : 

4 DEAR ALBERT, Many thanks for your 



VIENNA AND FAME 55 

friendly greeting on the 7th May. Your photo 
and that of your wife are already on show next 
to the beautiful Madonnas which I brought 
with me. 

c 1 beg you on no account to try my quintett, 
but rather to send it back to me, so that I 
may touch it up, which, unfortunately, is very 
necessary. 

* Have you seen the variations for four hands ? 
' Have I perhaps sent you them ? 

* The Marienlieder ? 

' Your trio looks very nice now, but how about 
the 'cello sonata ? 

* The new bride has quite charmed me. 1 First, 
when we were strolling gaily through the wood, 
and then by her quiet dignity in the r$le of 
Orpheus ! . . . . 

' For the present I shall live at Blankenese on 
the Elbe, two hours from Hamburg. 

'All sorts of tempting journeys are in my 
head. What are your plans for the latter part 
of the summer? 

c Meanwhile, put up with this hasty greeting. 
In case you write, which I hope you will do, 
address to my parents (Fuhlentw 74), and N.B. 
the quintett ! 

' I kiss your wife's hand, a thing I have learnt 

1 Fraulein Amalie Weiss. Chap, ii., p. 40. 



56 VIENNA AND FAME 

to perfection at Vienna, and so farewell ! Heartily 
yours, JOHANNES/ 

He agreed to our request that he should pay 
us a visit at once. Our friend, who had now 
become so famous, returned from Vienna with 
the old friendship for us, the warm tenderness 
for the children, and also the old humour and 
delight in teasing. Many youthful guests came 
to participate in the delightful music, morning, 
noon and night Those were merry days ! How 
much we laughed ! 

Hence the friendly memories of those days 
in his next letter : 

* HAMBURG, 1863. 

' DEAR ALBERT, I am sending you the 
promised quintett with the heartiest greetings to 
you, your wife, my bride and my brother-in-law, 1 
and all good friends at Oldenburg. I myself am 
off to-morrow, straight to Carlsruhe, where the 
firm Levi will receive letters for me. 

* I hope to be able to repeat my visit sooner 
this time, it was really too delightful, and I should 
like to write a long letter of thanks. I found my 
people all well ; that and some music with Joachim 
were my only consolations. 

' My sister, with whose fine steel pen I am 
trying to write, sends you her best greetings. 

1 Our children Clara and Max, aged two and three years. 



VIENNA AND FAME 57 

* Remember me to Herrn von D., and, as I 
said before, to all in and out of the house. Most 
heartily yours, JOHANNES/ 

'HAMBURG, 1863. 

* DEAR- ALBERT, I hope that this, and what is 
to follow, will find you yet at Oldenburg, although 
I have so arranged that in case of need it could 
follow you to lovelier climes, the Rhine or the sea. 
I hope that the sea is not very necessary. 

* I took the quartett with me from Hanover, 
intending either to send or take it to you. Now, 
I cannot make up my mind to shorten the little 
time I have with my parents. 

* The fact is, I have accepted the post of choral 
conductor at Vienna, and must therefore go there 
in August. 

' Now, I should much like to ask you to give 
me some information that will be of use to me 
there. At haphazard, because I do not really 
know what to ask you, and yet am extremely 
shy of making my first attempt in this line at 
Vienna of all places. 

c Do recommend me some very practical ora- 
torios of Handel, with which a novice may fairly 
safely make a beginning. What do you think of 
Bach's " Christmas Oratorio " ? I should like to 
undertake that Have you performed the whole 
of it? In two evenings? Only parts of it? 



58 VIENNA AND FAME 

After glancing through it superficially, the first 
two seem to me most practical. 

'Altogether, I beg you, as an experienced 
and highly learned conductor, to give me you^ 
advice. 

' N.B. Handel's "Alexander's Feast" and 
the " Christmas Oratorio " are particularly in my 
mind, and I would like to hear anything about 
instrumentation, etc. 

'N.B. What I should like best would be 
if you had the latter instrumentalised with or 
without organ, and could send it me to look at 
and study! Even if it were only a few odd 
pages, I could get to know the drift of it. 

' I should very much like to visit Madame 
Schumann at Baden-Baden at the beginning of 
August or end of July. So I want to ask you 
whether you have similar intentions, because 
in that case I should make twofold efforts to 
do so. 

* Write to me here. 

c And if, about September, there should be too 
long a pause in our correspondence, address to 
me at Busing's or Spina's in Vienna. 

' I hope to hear ere long. 

'Would not Dusternbrook, near Kiel, suit 
you? That would be exactly right for me! 

* Hearty greetings from my people, Your 

' JOHANNES/ 



VIENNA AND FAME 59 

Unfortunately we were prevented from meet- 
ing at any of the places proposed, as I had to 
undertake quite a different journey. 

Meantime, in our happy home care and anxiety 
had entered. 

Brahms had been extremely busy at his new 
post at Vienna, and had met with much success. 
He wrote to me from there, and I give part of 
his letter here, as, in addition to many kind words 
of comfort addressed to us, it contains much that 
is interesting about himself. 

'VIENNA, 1864. 

1 DEAREST ALBERT, How glad your letter 
made me! It was really a great joy to me! 
Take my most loving greetings. . . . 

c Let us endeavour to retain a fresh, open, 
and, if possible, cheerful view of the life which, 
after all, we must live. . . . 

'Your letter only reached me to-day, as it 
was addressed to my former lodging ; I am now 
living at the Deutschen Hause in the Singer 
Strasse. 

* My winter is nearly at an end, and I 
must now make up my mind whether I will 
spend the next winter in this same position, 
which decision is very hard for me, although, of 
course, both academy and orchestra give me 
much pleasure. 

' In every case we must see each other in the 



60 VIENNA AND FAME 

course of the summer, and I hope for a longer 

period. 

' I do not in the least know where I shall go, 

especially as my purse has always an impudent 

word to say on that subject. 

' In every case we can meanwhile resort to 

letter- writing to keep us together ! I would like 

to spend some time at Baden-Baden, and certainly 

at Hamburg. I doubt whether my purse will 

understand such bold projects as Salzburg j 

Tyrol. 

'You want my G minor quartett? Have 

you got the A major? Otherwise, I would 

rather send you all that I have at once. The 

following are now to appear : 
Duet for alto and baritone, 
A psalm for female chorus and organ, 
Sacred songs for mixed chorus, 
Three solo quartetts, with pianoforte, 

amongst which several are familiar to you. 

* It is possible that I shall not remain here 
much longer ; in that case I should go to Ham- 
burg and see you soon. It is more difficult to 
know where to go to, when one is neither held 
back nor pushed forward ! 

* Let this greeting be enough for to-day ! 
'Heartiest greetings to your dear and good 

wife. Do let me hear again right soon, and do 
not rob me of my hope that I shall soon see the 



VIENNA AND FAME 61 

friends in the North, whom for me no one here 
can replace. In heartiest affection, your 

'JOHANNES.' 

The autumn of 1866 brought us the great 
pleasure of entertaining Madame Clara Schu- 
mann and her daughter Marie as our guests, at 
the same time as Johannes Brahms. 

During her sojourn at Oldenburg, Madame 
Schumann arranged a soirde at which Brahms 
played his waltzes with her as a pianoforte 
duet. 

How delightful was the life in our house! 
Even the breakfast hour was interesting and^ 
thanks to Brahms's high spirits, merry! How 
enjoyable and cosy were the evenings! 

I still have a lively recollection of one large 
musical party, which was given in honour of the 
artists by friends of ours. 

Brahms had brought with him the manuscript 
of the Hungarian dances for four hands. He 
and Madame Schumann played them at sight 
with such fire and brilliancy that it was followed 
by a general burst of enthusiasm. After all the 
musical treats, our art-loving host proposed a 
toast in verse to Madame Schumann and 
Brahms. 1 

1 * Auf steilem Pfad empor sich winden, 
Auf Schlangenwegen zurecht sich finden, 



62 VIENNA AND^FAME 

In the spring of 1867 Brahms wrote : 



* DEAR FRIEND, The sun shines so brightly 
that is the sign that even for men of position anc 
dignity the " holiday " is coming, on account o 
which you perhaps foolishly envy us the whol< 
year. Now also the time is coming when fo 
a long time I shall not know where to send j 
letter of inquiry, and that rouses me from m; 
laziness about writing. Do let me hear ; 

Starre Gesetze zu iiberwinden 
1st Kiinstlers Miih ! 

1 Wird's ihm gelingen ? 
Wird er's erringen ? 
Hosianna singen 
Der Harmonie? 

< Die Fliigel heben, 
Zum Aether schweben, 
Im Himmel leben, 
Befreit vom Dunst, 
Und dann in's Leben 
Sich wieder begeben, 
Es adeln, erheben 
Das thut die Kunst ! 

c Ihr, die Ihr gerungen, 
Das Schicksal bezwungen, 
Euch ist es gelungen, 
Besieger des Grams ! 

' Das Glaschen es winket 
Der Wein drinnen blinket : 
Frau Schumann und Brahms ! ' 



VIENNA AND FAME 63 

word beforehand, how you are, and where you 
are going for the summer. 

' It seems I shall remain here at Vienna, Post 
Strasse 6, or address through Spina if you are 
ever in doubt as to whether I am here. 

' In the winter, I was an ass as usual, and 
accordingly gave concerts here, and at Pesth, 
etc., in the most lovely spring weather. In Pesth, 
the thermometer stood at 85 F. The result was 
in every respect so good, that I must call myself 
doubly an ass for not having profited by the 
opportunity to get rid of my " Requiem." 

6 Now let me hear how much better you 
understand how to give musical pleasures to 
yourself and others. 

' If you were going to Dusseldorf, I would 
almost like to offer my "Requiem " to you, for you 
to look through. Also almost ask you to show it 
to our Bonn friend Deiters, to whom I feel seri- 
ously indebted. Also to Pastor Von Noorden. 

' I read that you had performed my quintett 
and second serenade, but I should like to know 
more, and to have had the programmes in my 
hand. 

' And what are the Oldenburgers doing other- 
wise? First of all the wife, the children, and 
then the other friends. 

c Before you go for your holiday, do let me 
hear a word, even if only so hasty a one as this is. 



64 VIENNA AND FAME 

Would you not like to see the beautiful parts of 
Austria? And also to come to Vienna at the 
same time? Now in this springtime it is 
delightful in the imperial city. 

6 But for to-day only the best greetings for 
wife, children and everyone imaginable. Most 
heartily yours, JOH. BRAHMS/ 

'VIENNA, 1867. 

* DEAR FRIEND, My dilatoriness has pre- 
vented our letters from crossing for a second 
time. 

* In great haste : To-morrow I am starting 
with my father upon a short tour in Upper 
Austria. I do not know when I shall return. 

'Keep the enclosed " Requiem" until I write 
to you. Do not let it out of your hands. And 
ultimately, write to me seriously what you think 
of it. 

'An offer from Bremen would indeed be 
extremely welcome. 

'It is true it would have to be combined 
with a concert engagement. In short, Rein- 
thaler would have to like the thing particularly, 
in order to do something for it. 

* Otherwise I am quite inclined to let such 
things be, for I am not going to wear myself out 
for it. 

1 1 am ready for anything from Christmas 



VIENNA AND FAME 65 

onwards. Before that, Joachim and I are 
probably going to give some concerts here. 

' For to-day, only hearty greetings for you 
and all. Continue to write through Spina. 
H eartily yours, J OHANNES. ' 

At the end of this tour he accompanied his 
father to Hamburg. From there he wrote to me 
again : 

'HAMBURG, 1867, 

c DEAR ALBERT, Would you now send me 
back my score the sooner, the quicker, the 
better, and make the most of this good oppor- 
tunity for enclosing other things above all a 
long letter! 

' I had the great pleasure of having my father 
with me for some weeks. We went a nice tour 
through Styria and Salzburg ; just imagine what 
a treat it was to me to witness my father's 
pleasure, he who had never seen a mountain, and 
had hardly ever left Hamburg. 

* Now I intend to remain here quietly ; un- 
fortunately it is not much use my making plans, 
as only that comes to pass to which the spirit 
moves me. 

' But I would much like soon to see my 
"Requiem " back in my own cupboard, therefore 
send it, but not without adding words and music. 

E 



66 VIENNA AND FAME 

' Heartiest greetings at home and elsewhere. 
Your JOH. BR. 

' POSTGASSE 6.' 

'HAMBURG, 1867. 

< DEAR DIETRICH, Before the summer is over 
you must be reminded of me by a hasty greeting. 

' I can easily reckon how old yours is for I 
was just in the desperate condition of having to 
give up a summer overcoat as lost and to buy 
myself another when the long-lost one came, 
beautifully wrapped up in sweet songs and kind 
words \ f how heartily welcome was it all ! 

* I am sorry to say I cannot serve you with a 
symphony, but it would be a treat for me if I 
had you, dear Albert, here for a day in order to 
play my so-called " German Requiem " to you ! 
I enclose some newly-printed things. 

6 Until now I have been living at Zurich in 
Switzerland. Now I shall stay here a little and 
intend then to return to Vienna. Did a book- 
seller ever send you, or rather your wife, 
Simrock's Children's Book? A woman never 
fails to notice such a thing, hence the query! 

f Here all are well. 

* Mrs Clara ! I now look like your Albert to 
a hair ! you may take that fairly literally ! How 
can that be ? 

'Were you at Dusseldorf in the summer? 



VIENNA AND FAME 67 

And how is everything and everybody there? 
Do write a word. 

'Greet all in and out of the house. Your 

JOHANNES BRAHMS/ 

This letter refers to a time that Brahms had 
spent very happily and merrily with us in our 
home. It was in the beginning of the summer; 
we lived mostly in our garden, which we had 
ourselves planted and tended. All this had a 
great charm for him, and the hour spent over 
coffee in the summer-house with the children 
playing round him, was so much to his taste, 
that every chord of his amiable nature was 
awakened. 

When we saw him again in the winter, he 
had like myself grown a beard, hence the playful 
allusion in the foregoing letter. 

I had received the manuscript score of the 
1 Requiem ' from Brahms, and was most deeply 
impressed by its beauties. I hastened to Bremen 
to show it to Reinthaler, the conductor, who, 
immediately recognising the great importance of 
the work, decided to perform it in the cathedral 
on the following Good Friday. 

With what joy did I communicate this news 
to Brahms ! What a prospect for the near future ! 

On the 4th of April 1868, Brahms came to 
Oldenburg in order to play at a concert. We 



68 VIENNA AND FAME 

then heard one of his most beautiful works, the 
wonderful variations on a theme by Handel. 
His playing of them, as also of Schumann's piano 
concerto, was as usual distinguished by lucidity 
and poetical expression. 

He remained with us until the rehearsals began 
at Bremen. The performance was fixed for the 
loth of April. Our frame of mind became more 
and more hopeful the more guests announced 
their coming to the performance. 

c Only Madame Schumann will now be want- 
ing, but I shall sadly miss her presence/ sighed 
Brahms. 

His desire was secretly communicated to her, 
and although the journey from Baden-Baden was 
long, she arrived in time for the performance, 
giving Brahms a joyful surprise. We saw her 
enter the cathedral on his arm. 

At this first performance the solo 1 1 will com- 
fort ye' was not yet in existence. Instead of it, 
Madame Joachim sang the air ' I know that my 
Redeemer liveth' from the 'Messiah/ and was 
followed by Joachim, who played Schumann's 
'Abendlied.' How beautiful, how perfect were 
both renderings! 

Never had the cathedral been so full, never 
had the enthusiasm been so great. 

The effect of the splendid performance of this 
wonderful work was simply overwhelming, and 



VIENNA AND FAME 69 

it at once became clear to the audience that the 
' German Requiem ' ranked amongst the loftiest 
music ever given to the world. 

After the performance there was a select gather- 
ing of musicians and music-lovers at the famous 
old Rathskeller. 

In addition to Brahms (whose father had also 
come from Hamburg), there were present : 
Madame Schumann, with her daughter Marie, 
the Reinthalers, Joachim and wife, the Stock- 
hausens, Bruch, the Grimms, with Richard Earth, 
and ourselves all intimate friends of Brahms ; 
also Rieter Biedermann from Switzerland, the 
future publisher of the * Requiem/ and many others 
from far and near, even one fervent admirer of 
German music from England in all about one 
hundred persons. 

I will only mention two of the speeches, which 
I wrote down at the time Reinthaler's toast to 
the composer, and the latter 's reply. 

The toasts ran literally as follows : 

f I welcome this select gathering here to-day 
with feelings of great joy and justifiable pride. 
It is a gathering of an uncommon kind, its 
members having come partly to assist in the 
performance of a new work by a composer 
now amongst us, and partly to listen to the 
same. 

c It is to me a peculiar satisfaction that it has 



70 VIENNA AND FAME 

fallen to the lot of Bremen to have the honour of 
first performing this " Requiem." 

' What we have heard to-day is a great and 
beautiful work, deep and intense in feeling, ideal 
and lofty in conception. Yes, one may well say 
it is an epoch-making work ! Well may it fill us, 
who have heard it, with pride, because thereby 
we have gained the conviction that German Art 
is not yet extinct, but on the contrary new life 
has been infused into it, and it will grow and 
prosper as vigorously as heretofore ! 

* It was an anxious, a sad and mournful time 
through which we passed when we had laid the 
last beloved Master 1 to rest; it almost seemed 
as if the night had come. But to-day, after the 
performance of this " Requiem/' we can predict 
that the followers of that great master will com- 
plete what he began. 

c And it is to me a source of particular pleasure 
that I have been so fortunate as to have assisted 
towards a not quite unworthy performance of this 
work. But everyone who took part in this per- 
formance has given me his steadfast support, each 
one devoting himself to his task with eager and 
loving zeal, I might almost say giving himself up 
to it with enthusiasm, feeling that the work was 
something sublime. 

' I know that you all rejoice with me in the 

1 Robert Schumann. 



VIENNA AND FAME 71 

fact that we have the author of this splendid work 
sitting amongst us, and you will willingly drink 
with me to the health of the composer 
Brahms ! ' 

Simply and modestly Brahms replied, 

' If I now allow myself to speak a couple of 
words, I must preface them with the remark that 
I have not the gift of speech at my command. 
But there are so many in this company to whom 
I would like to say a word of thanks, so many 
dear friends who have shown me kindness, and 
especially is that the case with my honoured friend 
Reinthaler, who has devoted himself with untir- 
ing zeal to the study of my ct Requiem." There- 
fore I lay my thanks for all at his feet, and call 
for three cheers for Herr Reinthaler !' 

An atmosphere of great enthusiasm prevailed 
the whole evening. 

The work was repeated after a few weeks, on 
the 27th of April, once more under Reinthaler s 
direction but this time not in the cathedral. I 
myself gave the c Requiem ' twice at Olden- 
burg. 

Brahms came again in the summer in order 
to make some excursions in the neighbourhood 
with us and the Reinthalers. One morning we 
went together to Wilhelmshafen, as Brahms 
wished to see the great naval port. 

On the way thither our friend, who was usually 



72 VIENNA AND FAME 

so lively, was quiet and serious. He told us that 
early that morning (he always rose betimes) he 
had found Holderlin's Poems in the bookcase, 
and been most deeply moved by the ' Song of 
Destiny/ When later in the day, after having 
wandered about and seen everything of interest, 
we sat down by the sea to rest, we discovered 
Brahms at a great distance, sitting alone on the 
beach and writing. 

These were the first sketches for the ' Song of 
Destiny' which soon appeared. A trip to the 
woods was given up ; Brahms hurried back to 
Hamburg to devote himself entirely to work. 

He had also spoken to us about a very curious 
text for an opera ; however, he never carried out 
this idea. 

True to his custom of always letting me see his 
new compositions, in the year 1869 he sent me his 
cantata ' Rinaldo,' adding the following lines : 

{ LICHTENTHAL, near BADEN-BADEN, 1869. 

c DEAR DIETRICH, Instead of the letter that 
ought to have been written long ago, read the 
score. I heard recently of the little trip you 
took to the north (Greisswald, etc.). 

' You have given me the greatest pleasure by 
the dedication of your symphony ! If only it is 
not withheld from us too long. . . . 

* Some waltzes of mine will shortly appear, this 



VIENNA AND FAME 73 

time with vocal parts. Write to me how you like 
them. 

' I have been at Baden all the summer, and 
shall wait here for Julie Schumann's wedding. 
Greet your wife and children, and everyone 
imaginable, and let me hear from you some- 
time. Meanwhile, yours in haste, 

'Jon. BRAHMS/ 

The symphony which I had dedicated to him 
was completed ; but his acknowledgment of it 
was long in coming. At last in February 1870 
he wrote : 

1 DEAR FRIEND, I have delayed the thanks 
for your symphony too long. You give me great 
pleasure with your delightful present, and it 
could only have been still more delightful had 
an orchestra brought it and played it to me. 

* It would indeed have been a treat to me to 
have seen the Leipsic public pleased with this, 
our symphony. 

' When shall I hear it ? The journey to you 
seems to me always longer. . . . 

c Special thanks to your dear wife for her kind 
and chatty letter. 

< I am sending you my " Rhapsody" ; the con- 
ductors will not exactly fight for the Opus ; but it 
will perhaps be a satisfaction to you to see that I 
do no always write in such a frivolous time as f ! 



74 VIENNA AND FAME 

' Your sonata is frequently played at my house, 
and I am now very curious as to your new opera. 
We are just having a luxurious musical time here. 
Rubinstein^ Meistersinger and what not! For 
to-day these hasty lines must suffice to express 
my thanks. More soon. 

' Have you already sold your " Bittgesang" ? 
Reinthaler was loud in its praise. 

' Greet your wife and the future prima donna, 
and everyone else in dear Oldenburg who will 
allow themselves to be greeted. Heartily yours, 

' JOHANNES/ 

This ' Rhapsody ' was the truest expression of 
his deepest feelings. Brahms himself once said 
to me that he loved this work so much that he 
had to lay it under his pillow at night, in order 
always to have it near him. 
. ,JLt-4&-indee"d fascinating, if it is possible to 
apply such a word to what moves one's inmost 
being, and completely overwhelms one with its 
beauties. It is perfectly wonderful. It seems 
to affect one like a revelation of one's highest 
aspirations, and enthrals the soul to such an 
extent that it is impossible ever to forget it. 
One lives in a state of perpetual longing to hear 
it again. 

Brahms visited us a few more times. One 
evening at a Quartett Soiree he gave the 



VIENNA AND FAME 75 

audience a delightful surprise, as he had come to 
us unexpectedly. His own quartett in A major 
was about to be performed, and he took my 
place at the piano. That was a treat for the 
Oldenburgers. 

Almost every year Brahms went to Lichten- 
thal (Baden-Baden), in order to be near Madame 
Schumann, and frequently remained there for as 
long as ten weeks at a time. 

When in 1872 I went to Bonn to conduct my 
D minor symphony, my friend V. Wasilewski, 
the conductor, showed me a lengthy and beauti- 
fully-written manuscript of a violin part, and 
asked me whether I had seen the writing before. 
I immediately recognised it as Brahms's hand- 
writing in early years. We deeply regretted that 
the piano part of it could not be found. It must 
have been a portion of that violin sonata which 
was lost at Liszt's house in Weimar in 1852. 

In 1871 the second performance of the 
6 Requiem ' took place at Bremen, together with 
the Hallelujah (first chorus of the ' Triumphlied '). 
The former was now enriched by the wonderful 
solo, c I will comfort ye/ 

Reinthaler asked me for the assistance of 
as many Oldenburg singers as possible for the 
performance of the mighty Hallelujah chorus. 
Brahms also wrote to me on this subject as 
follows : 



76 VIENNA AND FAME 

* VIENNA, February 1871. 

* DEAR FRIEND, This note is only as a hand 
knocking at your door. I am just going to enter, 
and must be prepared for a cross face ! 

* Forgive me, I am even lazier in letter- writing 
than in the writing of music you will learn with 
horror what that is. 

' I am going to Germany soon, and almost 
dread it We out here have got into the way 
of only rejoicing over all that happens; but 
to you the stern and solemn side of this great 
and important time has appeared in terrible 
proximity, so that I expect you look at it 
from a different point of view. 

* In every case we shall see each other at 
Bremen. You probably know that I have sent 
the first chorus of a Triumphlied to Rein- 
thaler. He complains of the weakness of his 
choir. Could you not find some volunteers at 
Oldenburg who would sing in the eight-voiced 
forte ? 

6 It is not difficult, only forte. 

' Now, dear fellow, do not be angry with me 
when I come, greet the wife, your children, 
and everybody in the town right heartily. 
From your JOH. BRAHMS.' 

Of course we went again to Bremen in order 
to get to know the new work; it was over- 



VIENNA AND FAME 77 

whelming and grand, and met also with enormous 
success at the festival at Dusseldorf. 

During the following years Brahms came but 
seldom to North Germany. Towards the end of 
1873 he was once more our guest. The follow- 
ing year he wrote : 

1 VIENNA, 1874, 

' DEAR FRIEND, I am very very sorry, but 
you come too late ! I have already made so 
many promises, and shall not be going to your 
neighbourhood. 

6 If you had only written earlier, I should have 
arranged it with Bremen, Hanover, etc., for 
seriously I should so much like to come to you 
again! Now, unfortunately, I can do nothing, 
except, above all, greet your daughter most 
warmly. You know that there still exists a 
certain relation between us, not looked upon as 
unimportant by the mother ! * Then go on greeting 
anyone who is so kind as to remember me. You 
might have written something about yourself. 
With heartiest greeting, your J. BRAHMS/ 

Brahms spent the summers of the years 
1875-77 at an idyllic spot at Ziegenhausen 
near Heidelberg. He invited me to visit him 
there, which I did, and saw his latest works, 
though I do not now distinctly remember which 

they were. 

1 One of his usual jokes. 



78 VIENNA AND FAME 

In 1879 we met at Frankfort for the first 
performance of my opera, 'Robin Hood/ It 
was then that we heard his splendid violin 
concerto played by Heermann at Madame 
Schumann's house. He went to Bremen from 
Frankfort, in order to conduct the third per- 
formance of his Requiem.' 

In later years he remained at Vienna, only 
making a yearly trip to Italy; to the North 
he came but seldom. 

But yet in 1884 we were once more to 
have the great pleasure of seeing him at 
Oldenburg. He played at a concert at which 
only his own works were performed. He an- 
nounced his coming in the following postcard : 

* DEAR FRIEND, Your letter gave me par- 
ticular pleasure, for I was afraid the time might 
be very inconvenient to you, and you would 
think me unfriendly. Well, I am coming for 
the i Qth of December, and am looking forward 
with great pleasure to the new house and dear 
old people. A Brahms evening is not exactly 
to my taste, but I like something like the 
"Liebeswalzer" in the programme. Perhaps at 
the close you will give a decent piece by a 
decent musician ! 

c But everything just as you like it. With 
best greetings. Your JOH. BRAHMS.' 



VIENNA AND FAME 79 

Meanwhile we had bought a charming house, 
and were delighted at the thought of being able 
to receive our friend there. 

We spent the first evening quietly at home. 
The following day, when we were sitting at 
dinner, the door opened, and, to our great 
surprise, in stepped some dear friends from 
Bremen, seven in number, amongst them 
Hermine Spiess, 1 whose singing Brahms had 
accompanied the previous evening at Bremen. 
They all wished to be present at the con- 
cert at Oldenburg, Fraulein Spiess even to 
sing four songs of Brahms' : ' Die Mainacht/ 
'Therese/ 'Minnelied' and * Vergebliches Stand- 
chen' what a welcome surprise for the 
audience ! 

The following works were performed : 
'Tragic Overture/ the 'Concerto in B major/ 
and the 'Symphony, No. 3,' all of which 
created a deep impression. These were followed 
by the ' Liebeslieder-Walzer/ the sweetest and 
most charming pieces imaginable, and the 
songs which, delightfully sung by the feted 
artist, Hermine Spiess, aroused a very storm 
of enthusiasm. 

We spent a very merry evening with our 
dear visitors. After her return home, Hermine 
Spiess wrote as follows to my daughter : 

1 A well-known singer. 



8o VIENNA AND FAME 

WIESBADEN, 29^ December 1884. 

* My thoughts, dearest Clarchen, are still full of 
Oldenburg and Bremen, and I can hardly bear to 
tear myself away from these delightful memories. 

'What a series of wonderful impressions 
have I received. That must last a long time. 
What I value most particularly is to have now 
enjoyed Brahms as a man. How charming he 
was with us when we were making and guessing 
riddles. What delightful hours we spent in 
your congenial home! For me, that was the 
happiest day of the whole journey. Of course 
I now only play Brahms the live-long day. 
It is a real rest for me to make music for my 
own pleasure after all the compulsory music ' 
on the platform. At Christmas I received all 
Brahms's works, and am now really revelHng 
in these lovely things/ 

Two years later I received the following 
cards from Brahms : 

'DEAR ALBERT, Your letter gave me much 
pleasure, and if I were not starting for Italy 
to-day, I would take a proper sheet of note- 
paper to answer it. But now I can only thank 
you quite briefly, and congratulate you on 
your new works, the new doctor, 1 etc. 

1 Our future son-in-law* 



VIENNA AND FAME 81 

'Do come to Dusseldorf! I am not likely 
to go to Hamburg. For to-day only best 
greetings to you and yours, and also a few 
more. Heartily yours, J. BRAHMS/ 

* WIEDEN, near VIENNA. 

' DEAR FRIEND, Your greeting found me 
here, and I thank you warmly for the great 
pleasure you gave me. 

c All my thoughts were first on the Annanas- 
berg 1 and then with you. Happy in the re- 
collection of days spent together, and in the 
thought of how comfortable and pleasant your 
life now is. 

* I have no notion where I shall go to 
this summer, but Cologne is almost out of 
the question/ 

' Heartiest greetings to you and yours, 
whose number seems ever on the increase. 
Your own J. BRAHMS.' 

At this epoch of our life our happiness 
seemed at its height! Then came a terrible 
blow, almost overwhelming us. 

The letters we received from Brahms at 
this period, as well as In earlier days of trouble, 
are of too intimate a nature to admit of publica- 
tion, although they are the best witnesses of 

1 In 1853 Brahms and I used always to breakfast at the 
Annanasberg in the Hofgarten at Dusseldorf. 

F 



82 VIENNA AND FAME 

the beauty of his character, and the depth 
and tenderness of his affections. 

In 1889 Brahms wrote to our daughter, 
two years after her marriage : 

'VIENNA, 1889. 

'DEAR MRS ,1 must tell you that your 

letter gave me quite exceptional pleasure. 

'Accept for yourself and all whom it con- 
cerns my heartiest congratulations on the little 
daughter of the 7th of May. 

'That is a very nice day of the year, 1 and 
I hope that you may all long rejoice over 
its return, and over the gift that it has brought 
you this time. 

' I was very glad of the good news con- 
cerning your dear father, and also of your 
charming description of your dear little ones. 

'From other quarters I have also heard 
cheering and reassuring accounts of your dear 
father. 

' How grateful I should be to you or your 
mother, if you would send me a little letter 
with a few details. 

c Do give me this pleasure soon. 

' Thanking you again most warmly, and with 
hearty greetings to you and your dear parents. 
Yours most sincerely, J. BRAHMS/ 

1 Namely, Brahms's own birthday. 



VIENNA AND FAME 83 

Here these pages must end ; perhaps they 
may prove stepping-stones for an exhaustive 
biography of the great and never-to-be-for- 
gotten Master, which I hope will soon be 
written by a worthy pen. 

Whilst arranging these letters, I have again 
lived through bygone days, and once more 
revived all those delightful memories which for 
us and a large circle of friends are centred in 
the name of Brahms. May his true self have 
been in some measure revealed to the great 
crowd of his admirers by means of this little 
book, so that they may not fail to discern in 
the consummate artist, the noble and faithful 
man. If that has been achieved by means of 
these pages, then I may deem myself happy 
to have done my part towards the honour and 
glory of Johannes Brahms. 



RECOLLECTIONS 

OF 

JOHANNES BRAHMS 

BY 

J. V. WIDMANN 



* Stelle her der goldnen Tage 
Paradiese nocli einmal. 7 



RECOLLECTIONS OF 

JOHANNES BRAHMS 

BY 

J. V. WIDMANN. 
CHAPTER I 

FIRST IMPRESSIONS 
* 

ALTHOUGH ours was a very musical household, 
in which, with the help of friends from the neigh- 
bouring town of Basle, oratorios were frequently 
sung to a pianoforte accompaniment and other 
musical performances arranged, still all the years 
of my childhood and youth in the vicarage of 
Liestal passed without my having heard the 
name of Brahms. 

My parents, both Viennese, cultivated ex- 
clusively the music of the old classical masters. 
Mozart, Haydn, Beethoven and Schubert were 
their household gods ; they could even claim to 
have had a slight personal connection with the 

two last-named. 

89 



90 FIRST IMPRESSIONS 

The instrument upon which my mother used 
to improvise in her old age (as she had done in 
her girlhood at Modling, when Beethoven once 
growled out a word of encouragement, a fact she 
always remembered with pride) was the grand 
piano made by Graf for Beethoven, with excep- 
tionally powerful strings on account of his deaf- 
ness, and which stood in his room till his death. 1 
Sometimes my father, after playing on his 
Maggini violin or singing some of Schubert's 
songs with his fine bass voice, would recall the 
fact that Schubert himself had noticed his good 
voice and musical ability when a boy, and had 
invited him to sing in the great church festi- 
vals ; for Schubert occasionally assisted his 
father at the school in the Viennese suburb of 
Lichtenthal. 

A sequence of strange events had led my 
father from the monastery of Heiligenkreuz to 
the pulpit of a Protestant church in a small Swiss 
town. And hence, having been obliged to turn 
their backs on their beloved Vienna, my parents' 
love for those great musicians and for the city of 
their happiest memories was so intermingled, 
that they were quite content to completely ignore 
the further development of music, or where that 
was impossible as was the case with Richard 
Wagner's music-dramas they had only words 
1 Now in the Beethoven Museum at Bonn. 



FIRST IMPRESSIONS 91 

of mistrust or a contemptuous shrug of the 
shoulders. 

It was owing to these circumstances that, 
until about the year 1865, I had never even 
heard the name of Brahms; although he was 
then already far on the path towards the attain- 
ment of that fame predicted for him by Robert 
Schumann. On my telling him this, many years 
later, Brahms replied that I ought to consider 
myself fortunate in having passed my youth in 
the musically conservative atmosphere of my 
home, and to have been thus early imbued 
with the works of the great masters of the 

past. 

During this conversation the musical treasures 
left me by my parents were lying on the table 
before us : two very interesting autographs of 
Beethoven (one with music), old pianoforte 
scores of operas by Mozart and Cimarosa, first 
editions of Schubert's songs, also faded old 
programmes of concerts given in Vienna in 
1820 and even earlier. With what enjoyment 
did Brahms scan the pages of such scores as 
* Don Juan 7 in an undated edition, 'chez Tran- 
quillo Mollo, Vienne,' or the Collection of 
Songs for a Bass Voice 'bey Diabelli et 
Comp. Graben, Wien no 1133,' etc. It also 
pleased him particularly to see that in these 
editions the old treble, alto and tenor clefs 



92 FIRST IMPRESSIONS 

were still used; whilst, from the numerous 
corrections made by my parents, he per- 
ceived what excellent musicians they must have 
been. 

I offered Brahms some of the programmes 
of concerts at which first performances of works 
of Beethoven had taken place; he hesitated 
to accept them. It was only after I had re- 
minded him of his approaching return to 
Vienna, and remarked that if he took these 
old Viennese programmes back to the city of 
their origin it would be as if the picture of 
Diana were restored to Greece from Scythia 
that he smilingly consented. 

But Fate had decreed that I was to be led 
to modern music and to Brahms, if not by my 
beloved parents, yet through one as near and 
dear to me my future wife, who was from 
Winterthur. 

Here I may be allowed to quote from what 
Hans von Bulow wrote about the musical life 
of Winterthur as early as 1853, In an article 
which ran through several numbers of the 
Neue Zeitschrift fur Musik he says : ' The 
small town of Winterthur in Switzerland, thanks 
to the artistic efforts of such intelligent and gifted 
men as Theodor Kirchner and Karl Eschmann, 
can boast of a more real and intense musical life 
than that to which Munich, if it continues on its 



FIRST IMPRESSIONS 93 

present course, will ever attain. Winterthur is 
by several decades more advanced than Munich ; 
and is a musical Aranjuez compared to this dead 
Madrid.' l 

When in 1865, in consequence of my marriage, 
I went to live in Winterthur, Kirchner had already 
removed to Zurich. But Hermann Goetz, the 
future successful composer of 'The Taming of 
the Shrew/ was his worthy successor as organist 
and conductor, and upheld the good traditions 
of his predecessor, 

I thus found myself suddenly transplanted 
into quite a new musical atmosphere, of which, 
even during the years I spent at the universities 
of Heidelberg and Jena, I had hitherto been in 
complete ignorance. I was above all fascinated 
by the poetry and romanticism of Robert 
Schumann, which seemed to reveal to me a 
world full of hitherto unknown beauties. The 
fact that at this time I also became better 
acquainted with the works of Bach, combined 
to make this an important epoch in my life. 

In that winter (1865) I saw and heard 
Brahms for the first time in a concert in which 
he and Kirchner played alternately; a young 
violinist, Fr. Hegar, from Zurich, taking part 
in the performance, which thus had the character 
of a chamber-concert. 
1 Also published in H. von Billow's Letters. Vol. iL, 1850-1892. 



94 FIRST IMPRESSIONS 

Both by his personal appearance and power- 
ful playing, which was very different from a 
purely technical display, Brahms, then in his 
thirty-third year, at once impressed 5me as a 
strong personality. The short, square figure, 
the almost sandy-coloured hair, the protruding 
under-lip which lent a cynical expression to the 
beardless and youthful face, was striking and 
hardly prepossessing ; but yet the total impres- 
sion was one of consummate strength, both 
physical and moral. The broad chest, the 
herculean shoulders, the powerful head which 
he threw back energetically when playing, the 
fine thoughtful brow shining as with an inward 
light, and the two Teutonic eyes, with the 
wonderful fiery glance, softened only by the. 
fair eyelashes all betrayed an artistic personality 
replete with the spirit of true genius. In his 
countenance there lay such a promise of victory, 
such radiating cheerfulness of a mind revelling 
in the exercise of its power that, as I watched 
the young musician, the words of Iphigenia on 
the Olympian gods involuntarily occurred to me, 

c But in feasts everlasting, 
Around the gold tables 
Still dwell the immortals. 
From mountain to mountain 
They stride. . . .' 

I need hardly say that notwithstanding the 




JOHANNES BRAHMS. 

From a flwiograpk taken in early life. 



FIRST IMPRESSIONS 95 

great impression Brahms made on me, I did 
not take advantage of my friendly relations 
with Hegar in order to approach him ; but 
took his appearance as that of a beautiful 
meteor that had flashed across the horizon of 
my life. I still possess an old sketch book 
with which in those days I used to amuse my 
little step-daughters at tea-time by making 
rough sketches of the day's events ; and among 
its leaves I find an attempt to reproduce Brahms 
at the piano that evening. When some twenty 
years later Brahms saw this caricature at my 
house, he observed, 

1 Well, yes ; I suppose I did look somewhat 
like a doubtful candidate for the ministry in 
those days. But the difference is : you were 
one, and I was not. Ah, those were happy 
times!' 

It was to Hermann Goetz that I owed the 
first personal acquaintance with Brahms. Years 
had meanwhile passed ; among these Germany's 
great year of war and victory, followed by the 
building up of the Empire, which event inspired 
Brahms with one of his greatest works, the 
* Triumphlied.' Completed in 1872, it was per- 
formed two years later under Hegar at a musical 
festival in Zurich, the composer (who, by the 
way, spent nearly the whole of that summer at 
Rueschlikon, near Zurich) being present, 



96 FIRST IMPRESSIONS 

I also journeyed from Berne to be present at 
the festival. Goetz, who had resigned the post 
of organist at Winterthur and was living in a 
pretty house at Hottingen, invited me with 
Brahms and Hegar to dinner on the i ith of July. 

On our entrance we were greeted by the 
ethereal-looking wife of our host with the sad- 
news that Goetz had that morning had a violent 
attack of haemorrhage, and was constrained to 
keep his bed. We at once proposed to withdraw ; 
but the patient had already instructed his wife 
not to allow this, as, in spite of his condition, it 
would give him pleasure to be a silent listener 
to our conversation from the adjoining room. We 
obeyed this request, knowing that Goetz made it 
in all sincerity ; still, a shadow lay over our con- 
versation, though we all endeavoured to hide the 
natural anxiety which the condition of our host 
caused us. 

I must here remark that the fact that a real 
friendship never existed between Brahms and 
Goetz was not due to any want of appreciation 
or goodwill, still less to jealousy ; but the contrast 
between the characters of the two composers was 
too great to admit of such a relation. The 
Konigsberg musician, rendered over-sensitive by 
constant ill-health, could not bear the sharp, 
caustic manner of the robust and argumentative 
Hamburg master. This was already exemplified 



FIRST MfPRESSIONS 97 

in the first visit which Brahms paid Goetz at 
Winterthur. Seeing freshly - written sheets of 
music lying on a desk, Brahms stepped forward 
to look at them, saying : * Ah ! do you also some- 
times amuse yourself with such things?' (It 
was a piece of chamber-music). Goetz, however, 
quickly spreading both hands over the manuscript, 
exclaimed in rather exaggeratedly solemn tones, 
' It is my most sacred treasure ! ' (' Es ist das 
Heiligste was ich habeP) Whereupon Brahms, 
turning impatiently away, changed the conversa- 
tion, and soon after took his leave. Both Brahms 
and Goetz repeatedly described this little scene 
to me, each finding something blameworthy in 
the words of the other. But to me it was clear 
that this unfortunate misunderstanding arose out 
of the incompatibility of character and aim of the 
two men. Brahms had a deep-rooted dislike to 
all display of solemnity, one might even say a 
sort of shyness of betraying his deepest feelings ; 
and this occasionally as in the case in question 
made him burst out with something that 
sounded unkind, but was in reality only the 
result of a vain attempt to find a joking expression 
with which to cover his real feelings. Above all, 
no self-importance when artists are discussing 
their works together! This was a principle to 
which he adhered most strictly in connection with 
his own works, whenever he alluded to them, 

G 



98 FIRST IMPRESSIONS 

which was but seldom ; whilst when speaking of 
the works of the great masters of the past, he 
always showed the deepest veneration, pointing 
out how immeasurably higher their achievements 
were than ours. But in intercourse with other 
musicians he did not consider sufficiently how 
incumbent it is upon a man, who himself lives in 
the full sunshine of success, to spare the sensitive 
feelings of his less fortunate brethren. And 
being a stern judge of all inefficient work, de- 
manding both earnestness and untiring zeal in 
Art, it was just among musicians that he made 
many enemies, by the sharp or contemptuous 
words which sometimes came too easily to his 
satirical lips. But a man of such a noble 
character as Hermann Goetz, though hurt by 
such -an unpleasant episode, would not allow 
it to affect his admiration for the great musician ; 
it only caused some shyness and reticence in 
his presence. 

On the other hand, by journeying from 
Vienna to Mannheim for the first performance of 
Goetz's posthumous opera, c Francesca of Rimini/ 
in September 1877, Brahms showed the deep 
sympathy he felt with the ideal aspirations and 
tragic fate of the promising young composer, whom 
death overtook at the early age of thirty-five. 

But to return to that dinner at which our 
host, Goetz, could not be present In the course 



FIRST IMPRESSIONS 99 

of our conversation, I had ample opportunity of 
discovering in Brahms a man of clear ideas and 
firm principles not only in all that concerned art 
and literature, but also in other fields of thought, 
showing that clear insight by which true genius 
is enabled to grasp that which bewilders ordinary 
mortals. 

The Theological Reform Movement was then 
at its height in Switzerland, and to me it appeared 
to offer the best solution of religious problems ; 
though the fact that I guided our conversation 
on to this topic may have betrayed the doubts 
which were already beginning to trouble me 
for the desire to speak of such subjects usually 
points to an attitude of uncertainty and unrest. 

Brahms showed his colours immediately, by 
denouncing this movement as a half-measure, 
unable to satisfy either religious yearnings on the 
one hand, or a philosophy striving for complete 
freedom on the other. 

Gottfried Keller's 1 novel, Das Verlorene 
Lachen, appeared in the second and enlarged 
edition of Die Leute von Seldwyla in the 
October of that year; and this work did more 
than any amount of controversial literature to 
weaken the Theological Reform Movement. 
Much surprised as I was at this affinity of opinion 

1 Gottfried Keller, the most eminent Swiss novelist of the 
century, died 1890. Trans. Note. 



ioo FIRST IMPRESSIONS 

between Brahms and Keller, I knew what the 
pleasure of the former would be at finding the 
opinions which he had so long entertained, shared 
and so convincingly expressed by a writer for 
whom he had the greatest admiration. But it 
was much easier for the Swiss author, living in 
Zurich in close contact with this movement, and 
devoting much time and thought to its study, 
to attain such a clear and decided standpoint, 
than for the musician in his Austrian home. 
From this one may realise how wide was 
Brahms's intellectual horizon, how clear and 
healthy his mental vision, and how ripe his 
judgment of subjects having no immediate con- 
nection with his art. 

The fact that at that dinner I had a rather 
heated argument with Brahms did not seem 
to make my company uncongenial to him ; all his 
life he was an eager controversialist, and much 
preferred that a conflict of opinions should enliven 
the conversation, than that people, out of respect 
for his powers and achievements, should always 
agree with him. 

From my pocket-diary of the year 1874, I 
find that during the three remaining days of the 
festival we were constantly together; and thus 
I was a witness of several jests in which he 
indulged at the expense of those who . forced 
themselves upon him. 



FIRST IMPRESSIONS 101 

For instance, when a pedantic musician, from 
a very small Swiss town, obsequiously assured 
him that he knew all that he (Brahms) had ever 
written, the latter motioned him to be silent and 
listen, as the band was just then playing some- 
thing of his. I still seem to see that good 
man before me, as he stood there gaping and 
listening with upturned eyes to the rather 
common music (it was a military march by 
Gungl) which he really took for a composition 
of Brahms ; whilst Brahms himself, in great glee 
at the success of his ruse, whispered to us, 
'Well fooled V 

Another musician having introduced himself 
to Brahms, and being then unable to think of 
anything clever to say, asked him whether he 
did not wear spectacles when conducting, on 
account of his short sight Brahms, whose 
piercing blue eyes did not in the least betray his 
exceeding near-sightedness, did not relish any 
allusion to this, his only personal defect. On 
the contrary, he even tried to find an advantage 
in it, and used frequently to boast how many 
unpleasant things he escaped seeing when he 
walked the streets without his eyeglasses ; or 
he would jokingly remark that for such as he 
there were many more beautiful women than 
for those whose keener vision destroyed many 
an illusion* But to that interrogator his reply 



102 FIRST IMPRESSIONS 



was alluding to Schumann's * Faust/ which had 
been performed at this festival ' Yes, my good 
fellow. Of course I put my glasses n when 
I see written in the score "here women pass 
by."' 

What the bystanders most enjoyed at these 
little scenes, was the lightning rapidity of these 
repartees, which set the whole company a- 
laughing. 

Another day we were sitting over our coffee, 
and speaking of dreams. Spitteler, the poet, 
began to tell us about a certain dream that 
recurred to him at intervals, and was so start- 
ling that it almost made his heart stop beating. 
'At the further end of a palatial apartment, 
a door slowly opens. In suspense, my eyes 
riveted on the door, I await what is to come. 
And yet what reveals itself to me far surpasses 
my worst forebodings. In the doorway appears 
a female figure, no bigger than my forefinger. 
I gasp for breath . . .' Because she is 
too small!' interrupted Brahms. Everyone 
laughed, no one more heartily than the poet 
and dreamer. 

A couple of weeks after the festival, Brahms 
came with Hegar to Berne, and stayed two days 
with us there. He was then in particularly good 
spirits, and played unasked Bach's preludes and 
fugues, and some of his own pieces not on 



FIRST IMPRESSIONS 103 

Beethoven's piano, which was then hors de com- 
bat, but on a more modern instrument. 

One evening, lifting my little five-year-old 
daughter (a very lively child) on to his back, 
he trotted her merrily all through the town, 
not in the least disturbed in his pastime by 
the wondering looks of the passers-by. 

Brahms was, as is well known, a great lover 
of children. After dining at an hotel or restaur- 
ant he seldom left the table without filling his 
pockets with sweets, with which to conjure up 
a look of pleasure on the face of some poor 
little child. Being a keen observer, he was 
often pained by noticing some insincerity or 
similar fault in grown-up people. But with 
children who betray naturally all their naive 
egotisms, and whom he nowise looked on as 
angels, but was satisfied with them as they 
are he could refresh his intensely sincere and 
truth-loving mind after many a disappointment 
caused him by his fellow-men. 

He felt a special sympathy for the children 
of the poor ; and he always regretted that the 
Swiss children, accustomed to their Alemannic 
dialects, could not properly understand his North- 
German speech, and therefore did not chatter 
with him as freely as he would have liked. He 
also found the Austrian children livelier and 
more spontaneous ; this, however, did not deter 



ro4 FIRST IMPRESSIONS 

him, when in Switzerland, from stopping every- 
where in the streets to speak to the little folk. 
When, more than ten years later, he spent several 
summers in Thun, all the small boys and girls 
knew him, and used often to follow him about 
in crowds, shy, yet eager to attract his notice. 



CHAPTER II 

AN OPERA? 

THE first performance of Goetz's opera, 'The 
Taming of the Shrew,' for which I had written 
the libretto, took place at Mannheim on the nth 
of October in the same year that Brahms paid 
me his first visit in Berne. As is well known, 
this work gradually went the round of all the 
opera-houses of Germany and Austria ; and even 
now, after more than twenty years, it still occas- 
sionally figures in their repertoires. But the 
first performance (in 1877) of * Francesca of 
Rimini * (the posthumous opera left unfinished 
by Goetz and completed by Ernest Frank) did 
not meet with the same success, notwithstanding 
that it contains some musical gems, for the sake 
of which Mottl tried to revive it at Carlsruhe 
some years ago. The composer, who wrote 
his own libretto, had considered it advisable 
to insert a cheerful element in the terribly 
tragic story, and had also allowed himself a 

105 



106 AN OPERA 1 

dangerous alteration in Dante's version by 
making a mere misunderstanding a hasty 
action of her husband's the cause of Fran- 
cesca's death. 

As has already been remarked, Brahms had 
journeyed to Mannheim for the first performance 
of this opera. Among other musicians present 
were Max Bruch, Franz Friedrich von Holstein, 
and Ernest Frank, who, in the name of the 
composer's widow (also present), thanked the 
audience for the sympathetic and respectful 
reception they had accorded to a work per- 
formed under such sad circumstances. 

Brahms did not deceive himself as to the 
meaning of this succes destime^ but refrained 
from giving an opinion. In the evening, when 
we were alone together (we were staying at 
the same hotel), he explained, in detail, his 
views on operas and librettos in general, allow- 
ing me to perceive that, although he had really 
forsworn all opera writing, yet he could still 
be tempted thereto if someone were to offer 
him a libretto to his taste. 

Some few weeks after Brahms's death, there 
appeared, in the Feuilleton of the Strassburger 
Post, 1 an imaginary interview with Brahms, in 
which the author endeavours to demonstrate 

1 *Why Brahms wrote no Opera, 7 by Alfred Kiihn. S trass- 
burger Post) No. 296. I3th April 1897. 



AN OPERA ? 107 

from internal evidence that is, from the character 
of Brahms's music that Brahms could never 
have seriously thought of writing an opera. 1 
The course of events would seem to verify 
this assertion, as Brahms never gave an opera 
to the world. However, not alone do the letters 
which Brahms wrote to me (given later on) 
testify that for years he entertained the idea 
of writing an opera, but I must also draw atten- 
tion to the fact that, at least in one particular, 
this branch of his art would have afforded a 
suitable medium of expression for his artistic 
temperament. For the strongly emotional side 
of his character, striving for dramatic expression, 
must often have made him glance with longing 
at the stage, where it is more possible to give 
vent to all passionate feelings than in any other 
branch of music. 

It is well known that Brahms was an inde- 

1 Among others, the following words are put into Brahms's 
mouth, words which the author (by no means desirous of deceiving 
the public) later on confesses that Brahms never said : * My first 
compositions at once demonstrated my foremost principle, from 
which I have never swerved, namely, musical independence, with- 
out being in the least led away from the purely musical conception 
by elementary trifles, as so often occurs when words and music are 
combined. In the long run, a union of music and poetry cannot 
exist without concessions being made on both sides. And even if 
a " Lohengrin" or a " Tannhauser n reduce these concessions to a 
minimum, still music without any concessions is for me, as for all 
musicians, the loftiest ideal. ... As long as an artist is filled 
with the fire of true musical genius, he will never subordinate his 
ideal of his art to any extraneous limitations/ etc 



io8 AN OPERA? 

fatigable theatre-goer, and that dramatic pathos 
could powerfully affect him. And the fact that 
(especially in the two last decades of his life) 
he, on the whole, avoided operatic performances, 
affords no real reason for questioning the keen 
interest he took in the opera : on the contrary, 
does not this rather point to the fear of rekindling 
long-buried hopes ? At any rate, he was always 
particularly eager when speaking of subjects 
relating to the theatre ; as, for instance, when 
pointing out to me the total absence of any true 
dramatic spirit in the first act of the libretto 
of 'Fidelio/ which is generally considered par- 
ticularly good, but which he maintained to be 
actually melodramatic in character. Possessed 
of extraordinary dramatic instinct, it gave him 
keen pleasure to analyse any scheme for a 
dramatic work. 

It became clear to me, from those conversa- 
tions at Mannheim, that what principally with- 
held Brahms from writing an opera was the 
difficulty of finding a libretto to his taste. It 
seemed to him that to compose music for the 
whole drama was unnecessary, even harmful and 
inartistic ; only the climax, and those parts of the 
action where words alone cannot suffice, should be 
set to music By these means, on the one hand, 
the librettist gains more space and freedom for the 
dramatic development of his subject, and, on the 



AN OPERA f 109 

other, the composer is enabled to devote himself 
exclusively to the demands of his art, which can 
best be fulfilled when he has musically complete 
mastery of the situation (as, for example, in an 
ensemble portraying a joyful climax). Besides, 
he held it to be great presumption to expect 
music to accompany a purely dramatic dialogue 
all through several acts. 

The foregoing remarks prove conclusively 
that the views held by Brahms as to the 
relation between words and music in the opera 
were diametrically opposed to those illustrated 
by the Wagnerian opera, and which seem to 
be accepted by the general public of the day. 

As regards the material which might have 
tempted him, he advised me to look at Gozzi's 
dramatic fables and farces, more especially ' Konig 
Hirsch ' and ' Der Rabe.' c Das laute Geheim- 
niss ' likewise interested him, but only in Gozzi's 
theatrical and cheerful version, not in Calderon's 
stiff original. 

On my return to Berne I had no difficulty 
in discovering a German translation of Gozzi's 
plays, as it was at Berne that, just a hundred 
years ago, one had been published. I found the 
tragi-comical fairy play * Konig Hirsch ' in the 
first volume, and read this curious account of 
the Magician Durandarte's grimacing statue, and 
the transformation of King Deramo into a stag, 



no AN OPERA? 

several times. But after careful consideration, 
I was seized with discouragement and doubt, 
not only as to whether I should ever succeed 
in making a rational and poetical libretto from 
such a grotesque and extravagant farce, but also 
whether such a piece, however well carried out, 
could ever interest a modern audience. It is true 
the frequent transformations which certain person- 
ages undergo formed an attractive motive; but 
this theme, though both playful and serious, 
seemed to be overloaded with all sorts of childish 
trivialities ; and I sometimes found myself think- 
ing that even if Brahms, as could not be doubted, 
were to write the most beautiful music to it, 
still the whole opera would be considered a 
kind of second * Zauberflote/ and therefore a 
retrograde movement in the development of the 
opera. 

At the same time the temptation to be able 
to offer a congenial libretto to such a master of 
his art as Brahms was too great for one to 
resist So I wrote to Brahms that I was ready 
to make an attempt on Gozzi's fables, and re- 
ceived in the November of the same year the 
following reply, which confirms the fact that 
in 1877 Brahms was not yet immovable in his 
determination to write no opera : 

* I am waiting in vain for a quiet moment in 



AN OPERA f in 

which to think over your suggestions. In the 
meantime I must at least send you my heartiest 
thanks. It was just the Bernese translation of 
Gozzi that I meant when, at Mannheim, I praised 
" Konig Hirsch " and " Der Rabe" to you (the 
latter is entitled "Faithful John" in Grimm's 
version). As for me, I have so often vowed 
never again to think of a libretto that I should 
be easily tempted thereto! But yet my inertia 
in the matter has certainly increased, though 
I cannot say whether it has done so in other 
respects ! So it would really be wiser for you 
not to think of me at all. 

' Still it would be nice if the subject interested 
you, and you gave it some further thought. I 
should like to mention " Das laute Geheimniss " 
as a third (second) piece ; but you ought to have 
seen it on the stage, in order to realise how even 
the first scene can raise one above this nether 
world. 

* My copy of " Konig Hirsch " ends at p. 
472, but I suppose that only very little is miss- 
ing. I should imagine the transformation into 
a stag (?) and the final scene would be difficult ; 
but everything else is all right, above all, the 
comic, with its continual undercurrent of serious- 
ness. 

' But in either piece (" Hirsch " or " Geheim- 
sins") I should at first chiefly think of the 



ii3 AN OPERA f 

Dialogue and Secco- Recitative or rather at 
present it would seem a matter of indifference 
to me how the action is developed, except in 
emotional climaxes. 

'At all events, let us both think the matter 
over until the spring, when I shall be free to 
choose where to spend the summer. If you can 
spare the time, let me know what ideas you have. 

* With kindest regards to you and your wife, 
yours most sincerely, J. BRAHMS/ 

On receipt of such a letter I might have been 
expected to set to work with renewed ardour ; 
but being, at that time, in a responsible position 
(director of the city girls' school and training 
college), I had so little time at my disposal 
that, as a preliminary, I contented myself with 
sending an outline of the libretto to Vienna, 
and awaiting further news from Brahms. But 
at that time he was engrossed by other things 
(his second symphony appeared in November 
1878); and so it was only in November 1878 
that I received a post-card from him, saying : 

'Oh, "Konig Hirsch!" He is still lying 
on my table! I do not deserve it, but have 
you occasionally given it a thought ? Heartiest 
greetings and don't be angry with your 

* J. BRAHMS/ 



AN OPERA? -113 

There was no cause to be angry, but also 
none to continue my attempts to make a libretto, 
in which I lacked all confidence. So I let the 
matter rest 

Three years later, in August 1881, on a 
journey to Vienna, I paid Brahms a visit 
at his idyllic summer residence at Pressbaum, 
near Vienna. As I walked through the little 
garden, I caught sight of the great musician 
reading at an open window ; and I felt in- 
stinctively that he had now reached a period 
of his life when there could no longer be any 
question of his entering a new sphere of work. 
It may sound strange when I own that the sight 
of his fine flowing beard (which I then saw for the 
first time, hardly recognising its owner) seemed 
to me a symbol of the perfect maturity of his 
powers, and of the knowledge of himself and 
of his aims, to which the great composer had 
attained ; but as such was my impression- both 
at that time and after, I cannot here conceal it. 

The unexpected sight of this Jupiter-head 
astonished me so much that I burst out with a 
question as to the reason of this metamorphosis. 
' A clean-shaven man is taken for an actor or a 
priest/ answered Brahms, stroking his mighty 
beard complacently. He had now a certain 
naive pleasure in his personal appearance, and 
smilingly informed me that his photograph with 



114 AN OPZRAt 

the beard had been used in a school-book as 
an illustration of the Caucasian type. (Baenitz, 
'Class-book of Geography.' First Course.) 

During the days I spent in Vienna, Brahms 
was so extremely friendly as to desert his quiet 
Pressbaum for my sake, and we used to dine 
together at his favourite restaurant, * Zum rothen 
Igel.' He was particularly interested in my 
account of a visit I had paid to the Cistercian 
Monastery, Heiligenkreuz, to which my father 
had once belonged, and where I had now been 
kindly received by a brother who was so unpreju- 
diced as to ignore the fact that, for the members 
of this order, I had really no right to existence. 

One evening we went together to the Burg- 
theater, then yet in its old quarters, where 
Goethe's e Geschwister ' and ' Clavigo ' were given ; 
Fraulein Wessely, a charming young actress, 
who died a couple of years later, taking the chief 
female r$les. Brahms, who sat next to me, was 
moved to tears by the nobility of sentiment in 
the former play, although its theme is not really 
a sad one. So tender, so sensitive to the influ- 
ence of all that was beautiful in Art and Poetry 
was this large and strong-souled man, who just 
for this reason felt the need of disguising his 
true self by a semblance of roughness. 

The opera was not mentioned by either of 
us in those days at Vienna. But several years 



AN OP ERA f 115 

later, the fact that Brahms spent three successive 
summers near Berne, caused several newspapers 
to make the assertion that he was composing 
an opera for which I had furnished the libretto ; 
and this made me revert, in a letter, to our 
old plan, with the remark that it was a pity 
that the rumour should remain groundless. 
Brahms replied under date January 7th, 1888. 

* Have I never told you of my good resolu- 
tions, father of my Johanna? 1 Amongst these, 
to try neither an opera again nor marriage. 
Otherwise I think I should immediately under- 
take two (that is, operas), " Konig Hirsch " and 
" Das laute Geheimniss." Of the latter, I have 
even a libretto ready, made years ago by that same 
engraver in copper, Allgeier, who has now written 
those good essays on Feuerbach. Now, if you, 
dear friend, have downright liberal views and 
principles, you will easily see how much money I 
save and can spare for a journey in Italy if, 
in the summer, I neither marry nor buy a libretto ! 
Instead of that, could we not travel together? 
I cannot get on well alone in Italy, and for a 
companion/ etc. 

With the exception of a couple of humorous 
postcards, and an occasional sentence in a letter, 

1 Brahms used to call my little daughter his bride, and therefore 
sometimes addressed me as * father of my Johanna,' 



1 16 AN OPERA t 

this was the last allusion to the opera project. 
But it is a significant fact that Brahms, with that 
faithfulness that was peculiarly his, still thought 
with regret of the oft-mentioned plays of Gozzi 
and Calderon. They must have been very 
cherished schemes of his ; and thus the assertion 
that Brahms had never contemplated writing an 
opera can no longer be maintained. 

1 To try neither an opera again nor marriage ' 
are the good resolutions mentioned by Brahms in 
the humorous letter just quoted. I may there- 
fore here relate what Brahms once said to me 
on the second point, namely, as to why he had 
remained single. 

He usually only spoke jokingly of his bachelor 
state, and especially when answering inquiries 
of inquisitive ladies would make use of the 
facetious formula : * It is my misfortune still to 
be unmarried, thank God ! ' Such jokes and 
other little malicious remarks, as also the club 
life which his bachelor state constrained him to 
lead, often reminded me of Lessing ; which com- 
parison was strengthened when Brahms one 
single time spoke to me earnestly and with 
deep feeling of this matter, thereby reminding 
me of the touching words of Lessing, who ' would 
also have liked to have been happy as others 
are' (from a well-known letter of Lessing's after 
the early death of his wife). 



AN OPERA? ny 

It was in one of those summers in Thun, of 
which fuller details are given in the next chapter. 
Early one morning we were walking along the 
road which leads by the lake from Beatenbucht 
to Merligen, and had somehow come to speak of 
women and family life. Brahms said : * I have 
missed my chance- At the time I wished for it, 
I could not offer a wife what I should have felt 
was right.' Upon my asking him, if by that he 
meant that he had lacked confidence in his 
power to keep wife and children by his art, he 
replied : * No, I did not mean that But at 
the time when I should have liked to marry, 
my music was either hissed in the concert- 
rooms, or at least received with icy coldness. 
Now for myself, I could bear that quite well, 
because I knew its worth, and that some day 
the tables would be turned. And when, after 
such failures, I entered my lonely room I was 
not unhappy. On the contrary ! But if, in such 
moments, I had had to meet the anxious, ques- 
tioning eyes of a wife with the words " another 
failure" I could not have borne that! For a 
woman may love an artist, whose wife she is, 
ever so much, and even do what is called believe 
in her husband still she cannot have the perfect 
certainty of victory which is in his heart. And 
if she had wanted to comfort me ... a wife to 
pity her husband for his non-success . . . ugh ! I 



n8 AN OPERA* 

cannot hear to think what a hell that would have 
been, at least to me.' 

Brahms uttered these words vehemently, in 
short, broken sentences, looking so defiant and 
indignant that I could think of no reply; and 
only silently reflected on the one hand, what fiery 
and tender, jubilant and sad love-songs the man 
had written, who, walking beside me, thought, 
at this moment, with bitterness of his lonely 
condition ; and on the other, what mental suffer- 
ing the noblest and proudest minds have to "bear 
through the hard-heartedness and lack of com- 
prehension of the world. ' It has been for the 
best,' added Brahms, suddenly, and the next 
minute showed his usual expression of quiet 
content. 



CHAPTER III 

THREE SUMMERS IN THUN 

MY relation to the beloved and honoured 
Viennese musician had, now that the opera 
project was happily buried, reached a stage when 
neither of us looked for anything from the other 
but the growth of a hearty friendship. And 
though we occasionally stood at the grave of .this 
said project with feelings of platonic regret, yet 
the matter was done with and finished. I was 
also careful not to force any of my verses on his 
notice, in the expectation that he would set them 
to music. Only once I showed him a mytho- 
logical jest, which I thought might do for a 
cantata for chorus and orchestra, and in which 
the female soloist, in accordance with the contents 
of the poem, has to change, so to^ say, coram 
publico into a being of the masculine gender, 
which would have to be represented by a sudden 
change into a low register. Brahms thought it an 
amusing idea, but very difficult to carry out, and 

119 



120 THREE SUMMERS IN THUN 

not sufficiently serious for his muse. With this 
exception my relation to Brahms remained 
disinterested, and therefore all the more un- 
constrained. 

In order to spend the summer near me, in 
May 1886 he took up his residence in Thun for 
the first time. So as to be undisturbed, he rented 
the whole of the first floor of a house, the 
position of which he particularly liked, it being 
on the Aar. Slanting opposite to this brown 
house with green shutters is that little island- 
promontory of Scherzlingen, upon which the poet 
Heinrich von Kleist dwelt in 1802. As he 
was particularly comfortable in it, Brahms re- 
tained this house during the two following 
summers. 

He would rise at dawn and make himself a 
cup of coffee in his Viennese machine, for which 
a faithful admirer, Madame F. of Marseilles, had 
sent him excellent Mocha coffee in such quantities 
that he had immediately given some of it to my 
household, in order that, when staying with us at 
Berne, he might have the pleasure of playing 
host and visitor in one, at least at the breakfast 
table. The morning hours were devoted to 
work, for which he always seemed to be in the 
right vein in this Thun residence, where a large 
verandah and a suite of spacious rooms offered 
him an undisturbed walk for meditation. The 



THREE SUMMERS IN THUN 12 1 

Sonata for Violoncello and Piano, Opus 99, the 
Sonata for Violin and Piano, Opus 100, and the 
Trio for Piano, Violin and Violoncello, Opus TOI, 
are the principal witnesses of his creative activity 
during that first summer at Thun ; all works 
distinguished by wonderful freshness of imagina- 
tion ; all were first performed at my house. 

Whenever the weather permitted, Brahms 
used to dine in the garden of some restaurant; 
he always disliked a table dthote meal, and if 
possible avoided it, if only for the simple reason 
that he detested conventional dress. He was 
most at his ease in a striped flannel shirt, 
without either tie or stiff collar; even his soft 
felt hat was more often carried in his hand than 
on his head. And when, every Saturday, he 
came over to Berne to take up his quarters with 
us, remaining generally till the Tuesday or 
Wednesday, he would appear with a leathern 
satchel hanging over his shoulder, which looked 
as if it belonged to a wandering geologist and 
were full of stones, whereas in reality it princi- 
pally contained books I had lent him on his last 
visit, which he brought back in order to exchange 
for others. In bad weather a brownish-grey 
shawl, thrown round the shoulders and fastened 
on the chest with a huge pin, completed the 
curious, unfashionable attire at which people 
gazed in astonishment, and which sometimes 



122 THREE SUMMERS IN THUN 

reminded me of a certain illustration in an old 
edition of Chamisso's Peter SchlemihL 

These visits were days of great delight and 
interest to me and my family, on which we now 
look back with grateful emotion. It is true they 
were not days of rest. For the active mind of 
our guest required a responsive mood in those 
about him, and everyone was stimulated in the 
endeavour to keep up to the level of his untiring 
mental activity. But there was ample reward in 
the enjoyment of intercourse with such a truly 
great man, who could yet feel himself so happy 
in this simple family circle. 

Brahms was always in excellent spirits. 
Tolstoi in Anna Karenina once speaks of 
that 'quiet, constant light to be seen on the 
faces of those who are successful, and are con- 
vinced that all acknowledge their success ' ; and 
this * quiet, constant light 1 truly shone in the 
countenance of Brahms, but was with him not 
only the reflection of the consciousness of his 
fame and success, but still more of the happiness 
that his creative work gave him, and also of the 
mental cheerfulness which a thoroughly matured, 
faithful and honest mind must gain from constant 
intelligent contemplation of all things in this 
world, 

I have never seen anyone evince such fresh 
and constant interest in the phenomena of life, 



THREE SUMMERS IN THUN 123 

whether of nature, art or even technical industry, 
as Brahms. Every trifling invention, every im- 
provement in any household utensil, in short, 
every trace of human thought, if only of practical 
use, gave him true pleasure. And nothing 
escaped his observation ; no advertisement on a 
tram-ticket, no well-made toy, nor any other 
insignificant object, if only there were something 
new, some progress to be discovered. 

But he would vehemently denounce any un- 
practical arrangement, as for example that in 
Swiss railway stations the porters are not allowed 
to carry travellers' luggage into the carriages of 
the trains. He also detested one modern in- 
vention the bicycle because it would so often 
silently whiz pass the unsuspecting pedestrian, 
or disturb his train of thought with a sudden 
noisy signal ; moreover, to him the movement 
seemed ungraceful. He always deceived himself 
with the hope that it was simply a question of a 
passing fashion. Otherwise he considered him- 
self fortunate in living in the age of great 
inventions, and could not sufficiently praise such 
modern wonders as the electric light, Edison's 
phonograph, etc. He also took a great interest 
in nature, and all that concerned the animal 
world ; and often, when standing before the 
bear-pit at Berne> he would question me as to 
the family customs of the bears. 



124 THREE SUMMERS IN THUN 

Altogether, during his visits the themes of 
conversation seemed inexhaustible. The many 
books Brahms took from my library or editorial 
table alone supplied a great variety of subjects. 
On the whole he was no friend of novelties, 
preferring to read favourite books two or three 
times ; as he did that summer with the works of 
Hermann Kurz, only regretting that in the 
Sonnenwirth and Schiller's Heimathjahre, the 
description of the misery of the poor patient 
Wiirttembergers in the last century affected him 
so painfully that he could not bring himself to 
finish reading these books. He would sooner 
plunge into scientific works on the German 
language. He borrowed from me several 
volumes of Grimm's big dictionary, a book he 
always had at hand in Vienna, also Des Knaben 
Wunderhorn, some of Herder's writings, 
Grillparzer's plays as well as Gottfried Keller's 
novels and poems, which he had almost con- 
stantly by him in Thun, and among new books, 
chiefly interesting descriptions of travel, voyages 
of discovery, Stanley's Africa^ etc. 

My collection of Italian photographs was also 
a source of enjoyment ; and we could spend hours 
over them, each relating his experiences and im- 
pressions of Italy, and thus the wish to wander 
together through Italy was awakened, which desire 
was realised in the years 1888, 1890 and 1893. 



THREE SUMMERS IN THUN 125 

Current events, such as at Whitsuntide 1 886 
the tragic death of King Louis of Bavaria in the 
Starnberger Lake, yielded more material for 
discussion, as Brahms was an attentive news- 
paper reader and observer of all important 
events in politics, his chief thought being always 
whether the event in question would turn out a 
benefit or a misfortune for Germany and the 
German people. One can hardly fathom the 
depths of ardent patriotism that filled his breast. 
Standing as he did alone, without family ties 
or cares, that which stirred Brahms most deeply, 
and could bring a look of intense anxiety to his 
usually serene countenance, was hearing of 
political occurrences which he feared would 
hinder the development of his beloved Fatherland. 

I shall later, when referring to the summer of 
1888, have to relate how a controversy on this 
subject nearly cost me his friendship. Surely, 
when Germany realises how Brahms loved his 
country, and how he looked upon it as his 
greatest happiness that his lot had fallen in the 
time of the resurrection of the German Empire 
then the monument which we hope ere long to 
see raised to the memory of the composer of the 
4 Triumphlied ' and 'German Requiem 7 in the 
capital of that Empire, will commemorate not 
alone the great musician, but also the ardent 
patriot ! 



i 2 6 THREE SUMMERS IN THUN 

In this autumn, Ernst von Wildenbruch, who 
was travelling with his wife in Switzerland, paid 
us a visit in Berne. I happened to be on a little 
tour with Brahms, when a telegram from my wife, 
announcing the arrival of the visitors from Berlin, 
reached us at Miirren. We returned to Berne 
the same evening, and chatted together at the 
fireside, until the night was far advanced, and then 
spent the whole of the next day with them. 

Wildenbruch's plays were held in great esteem 
by Brahms, who now, on making his acquaint- 
ance, found the author's freshness and vigour 
congenial to him ; the wonderful physical strength, 
so rare in these days of decadent genius, which 
they both enjoyed in common, also gave them a 
sense of fellowship. It was a pleasure to find 
these two men so at one in their political opinions, 
and to note how the one seemed to spur the other 
on to flights of loftiest enthusiasm. 

Wildenbruch's unbounded veneration for the 
great poets of the past was likewise a trait quite 
after Brahms's own heart. He listened with 
sparkling eyes to Wildenbruch's glowing praise of 
the dramatic beauty of ^Eschylus's ' Agamemnon/ 
giving as an example the passage at the beginning 
of the play, in which is described how the brilliant 
beacons, shining from hill to hill, announced the 
return of the king from Troy, and the watchman's 
speech in reference to this which follows, 



THREE SUMMERS IN THUN 127 

Needless to say that, even in Thun, Brahms 
received many visits from friends and acquaint- 
ances from Germany and Austria, as also from 
conductors, young composers and lady pianists. 
The last mentioned hoped for a word of praise, 
which they would have used as a further recom- 
mendation, but through long experience Brahms 
had acquired the art of politely preventing them 
from sitting down to the piano. Of course there 
was also at Thun no lack of inquisitive admirers 
and autograph hunters ; some of these latter even 
setting to work with great cunning. One day he 
showed me a letter received from Solingen, which 
ran as follows : ' Your order for ten dozen rapiers, 
genuine Solingen make, will be despatched in a 
day or two; we take the liberty of obtaining 
payment through the post-office/ But the calcu- 
lation that Brahms would immediately refuse to 
receive the supposed order, and so furnish the 
desired autograph, was made without taking his 
perspicuity into account He put the note into 
his pocket and sent no reply. When neither 
rapiers nor demand for payment arrived, it became 
clear how rightly he had judged this to be but 
another expedient to extort an autograph from 
him. Again, a German lady in Capetown, who, 
year by year, with great perseverance, wrote to 
Brahms ordering * one of his far-famed Viennese 
pianofortes/ never received an explanation of the 



I2S THREE SUMMERS IN TffUN 

fact that he was not exactly a manufacturer of 
pianos. 

A young portrait painter from Berlin, who came 
that summer with Mr Simrock, the publisher, to 
Thun, ardently desiring to paint Brahms, had to 
learn that when the latter had refused a request, 
no importunity availed to change his decision. 
In order to further the artist's project, in which 
we all took a very natural interest, I invited him 
to come with Simrock and Brahms to Kandersteg, 
where I and my family were spending the month 
of July in a chilet. A very wet morning, which 
kept us all in the one large room of the house, 
seemed to be propitious for the execution of the 
plan. ' We believed that we had succeeded in 
disguising the plot from Brahms, as the artist 
had expressed the desire to paint my youngest 
daughter; she therefore seated herself in line 
with Brahms, so that the artist, while busy with 
his pastels, could look beyond her at the musician. 
But after a few minutes, perceiving the ruse, 
Brahms rose, and remarking that he could no 
longer inflict the smoke of his cigarettes (he was 
already at his fifth or sixth) upon the ladies and 
tender children/ went out on to a wooden bal- 
cony with a view of the Gemmi Pass, whither 
I followed him. But it was impossible to per- 
suade him to return to the room that morning ; 
so my little daughter was really painted, whilst 



THREE SUMMERS IN THVN 129 

the hoped-for portrait of Brahms had to be re- 
nounced. 

This dislike to sit for his portrait was 
strengthened by the fact that he had refused 
his friend Anselm Feuerbach (a painter whom 
he especially honoured) such a request shortly 
before his death ; and it would have seemed to 
Brahms a sort of disloyalty to grant to a young 
artist and a stranger that which, a few years 
previously, he had refused to the great painter, 
when at the zenith of his fame. At a later epoch, 
Brahms gave way so far as to sit for his bust 
and an etching ; though it remained painful for 
him to see his personal appearance (although he 
was in secret quite content with it) made the 
object of long and intentional observation. But 
amateur photographs, especially those taken 
without his knowledge, could give him pleasure ; 
and many a one did he in later years send to 
me from Vienna and Ischl. The best of these 
we owe to Frau Fellinger in Vienna, whose 
hospitable house was a true home to the lonely 
musician in his last years. 

Although we saw each other every week, still 
there was a frequent interchange of letters between 
Thun and Berne ; not that Brahms, with the 
exception of some letters given later, was in the 
habit of going into details. It is true he felt the 
need of communicating frequently with his friends, 



I 3 o * THREE SUMMERS IN THUN 

but he possessed in a high degree the art of 
saying much, in few words. On the whole, 
letter-writing was burdensome to him, and his 
favourite sheet of paper, the post-card, ' the size 
of which beneficently prevented any possible 
expansiveness ' (as Hanslick so politely puts it 
in the Feuilleton of the Neue Freie Presse of 
June 27th, 1897). First among his communica- 
tions are the amusing cards on which he would 
announce his intended visit, for example : 

c I will not ; I ought not ; I may not ; I cannot 
but I must ! I must go and see if the little one * 
has not come back. Much as you write, never 
is there mention of this gem of the house, of the 
street, of the town/ etc. 

Or again : 

'Just decided to look you up to-morrow, 
Thursday, afternoon. If there is no cake on 
the table, it will be taken as a sign of dismissal 
by your B. J 

Another time, when I had opened a public 
subscription on behalf of an old actor, I received 
the following post-card : 

* Enclosed twenty francs or will you mean- 
1 My little daughter, who was away on a holiday. 



THREE SUMMERS LV THUN 131 

while accept it after this fashion and cash will 
follow ; if necessary, enforce payment by pawning 
the travelling effects 1 of the well-known climber 
of the Jungfrau and Niesen and frequenter of the 
Schanzli theatre. 7 

Brahms was very partial to the summer theatre 
on the Schanzli, where operas and operettas were 
frequently given, mostly with pianoforte accom- 
paniment Above all, he would never miss a 
performance of the ' Fledermaus,' which was 
given several times that summer ; but he would 
often exclaim : c Could you but see and hear this 
played and sung in Vienna ! ' 

As regards the signature as mountaineer, the 
allusion to an ascent of the Jungfrau was only 
a joke; but Brahms had really ascended the 
Niesen with us, and had also walked from 
Kandersteg to the beautiful Oeschinensee at 
the foot of the Bliimlisalp. It is true that with 
his inclination to corpulency, climbing was no 
easy matter, and during an ascent he would 
often accuse himself of folly in attempting such 
trips. Likewise the steep path to Mlirren 
there was then no mountain railway involved 
some hard work. But his downhill pace was a 
merry one, and he usually went so quickly that 
it was hardly possible to keep up with him. 

1 These usually consisted of brush, comb and tooth-brush. 



132 THREE SUMMERS IN TfflrN 

But our correspondence was not limited to 
humorous notes ; sometimes we exchanged views 
on more serious questions. Once I had in a 
letter expressed the opinion that a stand ought 
to be made against the undue preponderance 
of male choruses and brass bands, whereupon 
Brahms wrote: 

'Your zeal against male choruses and brass 
bands reminds me of the temperance societies 
which occasionally ask me for sympathy. . 

* But I have none. It is so easy to deprive 
the poor man of his oft sorely-needed dram. I 
should be much in their favour if such societies 
had the object and the power of procuring com- 
pensation for him by making wine, beer and 
coffee cheaper. 

'Now male choruses and the modern brass 
instruments are convenient for the common 
man; everything else has- to be approached 
more cautiously and learnt earlier. Unfortun- 
ately, amongst the so-called better classes, a 
fondness for any other instrument but the piano 
seems to be almost non-existent. 

' It is very desirable that parents should let 
their children learn other instruments violin, 
violoncello, flute, clarionet, horn, etc. (This 
would also be the means of arousing interest 
in all sorts of music.) 



THREE SUMMERS IN THUN 133 

* But there could be more and better work 
done for singing in the schools, as also by 
letting boys commence the violin very early I 
have often seen that done in Austrian villages. 
The singing of the Mass in Catholic churches 
is also far from stupid! To sing at sight in 
all keys, and to be on intimate terms with 
fugues ! ' 

The next day Brahms sent the following lines 
after this dissertation : 

' DEAR FRIEND, Let the punishment follow 
the crime. Therefore, 1 I have induced the 
" songstress " (Fraulein Spiess, Hermione without 
the "o"), to break in on you a week hence, on 
her return from the Lake of Geneva, and with 
my help to torture you with songs. 

'You can either have the doors locked, or 
invite Professor V. and Professor St. to share 
the agony. 

6 For the rest, you are too kind ! 2 But I 
have placed an Italian novel on the top of the 
Nietzsche, whilst I think twice whether I will 
walk under a blue or a grey sky! . . . 

*If not before, I shall probably come on 
Wednesday with spears and bars (Spiessen und 
Stangen) ! Heartiest greetings/ etc. 

1 This 'therefore' means *no male choruses but.' 

2 I had sent some new books to Thun. 



134 THREE SUMMERS IN THUN 

In the charming Memoirs, 1 written by the 
sister of the singer, there is, on p. 166, a de- 
scription of the 'musically never-to-be-forgotten 
day ' which followed this letter. * Brahms had 
come over from Thun to his friends the W.'s, 
and had invited a number of the most musical 
people in Berne to listen to the music. The 
most beautiful songs vied with one another ; 
and between them Brahms played Bach in his 
incomparable manner. Memorable hours ' etc. 
The visit was repeated in June 1888, and was 
the occasion of another delightful musical feast, 
at which Hermine Spiess sang, besides many 
songs of Brahms'/ the whole of Schumann's 
* Dichterliebe/ Brahms accompanying her. (De- 
tails in the Gedenkbuch, pp. 229 and 230.) 

Autumnal storms were already blowing, when 
Brahms left Thun at the beginning of October, 
and returned to Vienna. He left his whole 
provision of coffee and his coffee-machine in my 
wife's care, as he fully intended to return the 
following summer ; although as he often said, both 
in letters and verbally, he did not care for the 
frequently rather disobliging manner of that part 
of the Swiss nation with which the foreigner 
comes into contact when travelling. In his 
first letter to me, written shortly after his arrival 

1 * Hermine Spiess, Ein Gedenkbuch fur ihre Freunde, von 
ihrer Schwester.' Stuttgart G, J. Goeschen. 



THREE SUMMERS IN THUN 135 

in Vienna, he says : ' Now I will give you details 
of the journey 1 and of Vienna; and tell you 
how much pleasure it gives me to see the first 
Austrian guards and waiters again/ 

Among the friendly messages contained in 
this letter there was also one to our servant 
'Vreneli'; for with Brahms politeness and even 
kindliness did not cease at a certain rank or 
class, but only where, irrespective of either, he 
thought he saw some insincerity, for example, 
unwarranted arrogance, affectation, or love of 
finery* It could sometimes happen that with 
half intentional, half unintentional rudeness he 
would turn his back on some 'grande dame/ 
who was displaying all her art to attract the 
attention of the celebrated man, and turn to the 
waiting - maid, in whose honest eyes he read 
natural simplicity, and address some friendly 
word to her ; for instance, how much he 
had enjoyed a certain dish, or something 
similar. 

Brahms arrived in Berne in May of the 
following year, whilst I was still travelling in 
Italy. He also came from Italy, having been 
to Rome with Mr Simrock and Theodor 
Kirchner we had meant to meet in Bologna, 
but had missed each other. On arriving in 
Berne, Brahms met my wife with the words : 
1 Which of course was not the case. 



136 THREE SUMMERS IN 

'Your husband has gone on to Cyprus, and I 
have come to act the paterfamilias! 

A couple of days later I returned from Venice, 
and then the constant intercourse between Berne 
and Thun was renewed, with the difference that 
Brahms came to us even oftener and for longer 
than formerly, as Thun offered few attractions 
to him that cold and rainy summer. At one 
time my family stayed in a little house above 
Merligen on the Lake of Thun, whilst I re- 
mained in Berne, only spending each Sunday 
with them. 

Brahms treated the theme of the wet and 
cold weather with constant variations in amus- 
ing post-cards: 

' I imagine you will take a photographer with 
you to Merligen to-morrow, in order to have 
groups taken -of the frozen people. The 
sensation will doubtless be great, but I will 
perhaps look on. Afterwards, we will search 
for newly-formed ice-grottoes, and finally for 
the remains of the provisions ! Hearttest greet- 
ing and sympathy, your J- B/ 

Again : 

' DEAREST FRIEND ! I will just tell you briefly 
that this week you do not need to look for any 
Iceland moss for me, nor prepare any sealskin; 



THREE SUMMERS IN THUN 137 

I shall not travel before the beginning of. next 
week/ etc. 

Another time he wrote : 

* It would not be difficult by a stretch of 
imagination to change a cold and miserable 
Whitsuntide into a bright and merry Christmas. 
And as a little musical festival will also take 
place, do not feed the musicians too copiously, 
so that they can have a good practice, and after- 
wards, as a reward, go to the Schanzli Theatre ! * 

The little 'musical festival' consisted in a 
c home-concert/ in which the brothers Hegar 
from Zurich (violin and 'cello) assisted Brahms 
in playing several of his new compositions from 
manuscript. Another card was in biblical style : 

e And they brought unto them meat from his 
table. But unto B. (rahms) was given five times 
as much as unto the others. And they drank 
and were drunken with him. Thus it has been 
and will be in the palace of Joseph ; * wherefore 
the heart of B. rejoiceth/ 

These notes will suffice to show what a 
merry visitor Brahms was. If there is anything 
agreeable to a hostess, it is to see her guests 

1 His host's Christian name. Trans* Note. 



138 THREE SUMMERS IN THUN 

bring a healthy appetite, and appreciation of 
what is put before them, to table; and surely 
this was never more the case than with Brahms, 
although he was accustomed to the exquisiteness 
of the Viennese cuisine. He did not expect 
delicacies, and knew how to do justice to simple 
fare, lessening by many little attentions the daily 
burden of his hostess. In this respect he had an 
incomparable delicacy of feeling, and understand- 
ing of the needs and occasional embarrassments 
of a modest household, which often called forth 
the admiration of my womenkind. 

However, the summer of 1887 did not con- 
sist of rainy days only. On a glorious day in 
June we revisited the beautiful plateau of 
Mtirren; for Brahms had a similar feeling with 
regard to his favourite places as with good 
books, preferring to revive former memories 
rather than to seek after fresh impressions. As 
we descended towards Gimmelwald, I was so 
impressed by the majesty of the snow-clad 
giants opposite us that I gave utterance to the 
thought of how impossible it is to keep this 
glory in one's mind, so as to reproduce it 
through the medium of poetry or art Brahms 
stood still, looked at me with laughing eyes, 
and exclaimed, 'Well, I must say you are the 
rudest man I ever came across! Any other, 
taking such a walk with me, would every now 



THREE SUMMERS IN THUN 139 

and then know how to bring in some flattering 
word, for example, that is just like a passage in 
your third symphony, or something similar ! But 
one never hears anything like that from you ! ' 
And clapping me on the shoulder, he laughed 
heartily, A little later, as we were resting on a 
hill near Stechelberg he observed with a roguish 
look : ' I like us. (Wir gefallen mir). Well, Mr 
Author, is it not admissible to say that ? Perhaps 
it is new to you. But consider, it is quite correct.' 
And he merrily repeated, ' I like us ! ' 

The happiness which such a friendship gave 
me was enhanced by the fact that Brahms intro- 
duced me to many of his German and Austrian 
friends, who visited him in Thun. For instance 
that summer : the distinguished Professor G. 
Wendt from Carlsruhe, Max Kalbeck, the lyric 
poet and musical critic, and his oldest and most 
intimate friend, Professor Edward Hanslick, from 
Vienna; and, in the following year, Klaus 
Groth, who was travelling with C. W. Allers, 
the artist. The elder of those here named 
probably never thought that they would all 
survive the man who was then the merriest 
in our merry circle, and whom considerations 
of health never deterred from any undertaking. 

This time Brahms left Berne as early as 
September, with the object of spending some days 
with Madame Clara Schumann in Baden-Baden. 



140 THREE SUMMERS IN THUN 

On the morning of his departure, much to the 
joy and comfort of his kind heart, he was 
witness of the happy return of my little dog 
Argos, whom a few days previously I had been 
obliged to leave behind me on the Mer de Glace 
at Grindelwald. The approach of the autumnal 
night had made it inadvisable to tarry longer 
on the glacier; so I had been obliged to obey 
the guide, who would not allow the precious 
minutes before dark to be wasted in fruitless 
endeavours to catch the little dog, whose fear 
at the ice-crevasses prevented him from follow- 
ing us. Brahms, who had not shared this 
expedition, was very unhappy at seeing me 
return without the dog. 'You will never see 
the dear little fellow again! 7 That was what 
we all feared; great therefore was our joyful 
surprise when, before six o'clock on the Monday 
morning, we heard the sound of scraping against 
the house-door, and on opening it the little 
Scotch terrier jumped up at us with a sound 
more like the exultant cry of a human being 
than the bark of a dog. From Friday till 
Monday he had been on the way : he must have 
run along the whole breadth of the Eiger, over 
the Scheidegg and Wengernalp to Lauterbrunnen 
and Interlaken, from there along by the lake to 
Thun and finally thence to Berne, where he 
arrived safe and sound, but exhausted. The 



THREE SUMMERS IN THUN 141 

rejoicing at the unexpected return of the little 
favourite was so great that we, old and young, 
stood round him regardless of our half-finished 
toilets, Brahms, the early riser, having the ad- 
vantage over us in this respect. I still seem to see 
him as he stooped over Argos, and surrendering 
his face and hands to the wildly joyful caresses 
of the little dog, exclaimed, 

* So such things do happen, and are not only 
sportsmen's stories!' And he was delighted at 
the thought of telling this anecdote to his 
friends. And in his first letter from Vienna, 
he writes: ' How is Argos? Would he take 
it as a tender greeting from me, if you were 
to give him a nice piece of meat, instead of 
dog-biscuit ? * (which wish was of course duly 
fulfilled). 

In the following spring I met Brahms on the 
7th May (his birthday) at Verona, and we started 
on the first of the Italian tours we made to- 
gether. On our return to Switzerland, Brahms 
settled down for the third time in his quarters at 
Thun, and, as formerly, spent the Sundays with 
us in Berne, or joined us in some excursion to 
Grindelwald, etc. 

That summer was a busy one for me. I had 
just bought a new house and garden, and it seemed 
a good omen to us all that Brahms should be our 
first guest. About the same time I had entered 



142 THREE SUMMERS IN THUN 

upon a heated newspaper controversy concerning 
certain revelations made as to a charitable in- 
stitution which brought me into conflict with the 
authorities, and naturally occasioned me some 
excitement and vexation. This caused a certain 
irritability, which no doubt left its traces on an 
article which I wrote whilst temporary substitute 
for the political editor of the Bund upon an 
expression used by the young German emperor 
in a speech at Frankfort on the Oder. 

Brahms felt hurt by the tone of this article, 
and this led to political discussions which were 
unprofitable for both parties, and for a moment 
threatened to completely rupture our friendly 
relations. Now, on looking back, I must confess 
to having overshot the mark, which can easily 
happen to a dilettante on the ticklish path of 
political journalism. 

Still, the occurrence had the one good result 
of provoking a written expression of Brahms's 
opinion of Richard Wagner's works, which, by 
the high appreciation of Wagner's operas therein 
stated, proves conclusively how mistaken is the 
idea that Brahms, notwithstanding the antagonism 
of their theories of Art, had neither understood 
nor done justice to the enormous significance of 
Wagner s work. 

In a letter of five pages, dated August 2Oth, 
1888, Brahms writes to me: 



THREE SUMMERS IN THUN 143 

' Thus all that comes from Germany is severely 
criticised, though the Germans themselves lead the 
way. It is the same in Politics as in Art If 
the Bayreuth Theatre stood in France^ it would 
not require anything so great as the works of 
Wagner to make you and Wendt and all the 
world go on a pilgrimage thither, and rouse your 
enthusiasm for something so ideally conceived and 
executed as those music- dramas" 

This is a weighty criticism as spoken by one 
great musician of another's work. And though 
the fact remains that Brahms, as the representa- 
tive of absolute music, worked on quite different 
lines from those followed by Wagner, still it is 
now clear that Brahms held the ' ideally conceived 
and executed' work of Wagner as something 
great, of which Germany should be proud. This 
coincides with what he once said to me that same 
summer, as we were taking an early walk in the 
garden. Calling himself ' the best of Wagnerites/ 
he observed that his comprehension of the Wag- 
nerian scores was probably more profound than 
that of any contemporary. 

As for the political quarrel, it embittered our 
next meetings, as, leaving aside the original theme 
of contention, we had embarked on useless dis- 
cussions on the advantages and disadvantages of 
the monarchical and republican forms of govern- 



144 THREE SUMMERS IN THUN 

ment. In the desire to heal the breach caused 
by these unfortunate differences, I wrote on this 
subject to Gottfried Keller (he greatly admired 
Brahms, arid had often sent him greetings through 
me) and appealed to him to be our arbitrator. 
Keller's reply, dated August 3oth 1888, is not 
included in the letters given in Baechtold's Life 
of Gottfried Keller, nor can it here be given in 
full. But some of the pacifying words, which he 
addressed to me, may find a place here. 

c It is a question of a something that is at the 
same time a nothing. At anyrate, I recognise 
the tremendous change which has, in many re- 
spects, been brought about by the war and founda- 
tion of the German Empire. When at one time 
I spent many years in Berlin, Prussians and non- 
Prussians listened to, and even joined in, sharp 
or ironical criticisms of the different governments 
and their doings without displaying much warmth. 
Now, after eighteen short years, the very son of 
a free town clings more pathetically to emperor 
and dynasty than probably was ever the case in 
the days of former greatness. At the same time, 
I must confess that you did injustice (at least 
according to my opinion) to the royal speaker at 
Frankfort in your article. What you wrote was, 
of course, well meant, but could not be acceptable 
to one on the other side also feeling warmly in 



THREE SUMMERS IN THUN 14$ 

the matter. But I think that the regrettable 
tension between you and B. will subside, especi- 
ally if you do not dogmatically insist upon your 
views, which can in this case not amount to 
principles/ 

When this well-meaning exhortation to peace 
reached me, our political warfare was just at an 
end, and so it seemed best to me to say nothing 
to Brahms of Keller's letter, so as not to touch 
the healing wound. In silent agreement we for 
some time avoided all political topics, having dis- 
covered how heated we could both, become. 
Good-fellowship was again established, and soon 
one or other of us would venture little hits re- 
lating to our dispute, which proved the genuine- 
ness of our reconciliation. 

And when in September Brahms took his 
departure (to spend a few weeks with Madame 
Schumann in Baden-Baden before returning to 
Vienna), it was not before we had planned another 
journey to Italy for the next spring, which, how- 
ever, through unforeseen circumstances, was only 
carried into execution in May 1890. 



CH APTE R I V 

IN I T ALY 

THE various journeys which Brahms took to 
Italy may certainly be accounted the chief of his 
pleasures, apart from those connected with his 
Art, for he had a passionate love for that land of 
beauty, and a spring which brought no journey 
to Italy seemed to him half wasted, this being 
especially the case during the last decade of his 
life. 

Probably the chief source of this love for Italy 
may be found in his consciousness of an inner 
sympathy with the masters of the Italian Re- 
naissance, Not that Brahms ever compared his 
creative work with that of those artists whose 
productions, whether in the province of architec- 
ture, sculpture or painting, were his delight ! On 
the contrary, on those rare occasions when he 
spoke to some friend of his own works it was 
always with a touching modesty, ever showing 

the deepest veneration for the great heroes of the 

146 



IN ITAL Y 147 

past in every field of Art. But such comparisons 
unconsciously suggested themselves when witness- 
ing his rapt contemplation of the artistic treasures 
of Italy, or when listening to his enthusiastic 
praise of some characteristics of the Old Masters, 
characteristics which, in very truth, he himself 
possessed in a high degree; for instance, their 
conscientiousness of execution in minute details 
and their faithful industry in Art 

Brahms's especial delight was to discover gems 
of patient labour, which would pass unnoticed by 
the ordinary tourist. For instance, in Santa 
Maria Maggiore at Bergamo, it gave him the 
greatest pleasure to note the beautiful Intarsia 
work, which is there applied not only to the 
backs of the choir stalls, but also to the seats 
themselves, these latter being usually kept covered 
with boards, which, however, the sacristan re- 
moved on perceiving the delight and insatiable 
interest with which the bearded stranger, whom 
he took for a 'scultore,' studied the upper part. 

There is no doubt that Brahms felt the Art 
of the Italian Renaissance akin to his own artistic 
nature, though, as I have already observed, he 
was much too modest ever to acknowledge the 
analogy. And his interest in the art treasures of 
Italy was perfectly natural and spontaneous, not 
based upon any previous study of the history of 
Art. It is true he enjoyed the perusal of 



i 4 8 IN ITALY 

modern classical works on Italy, such as Jacob 
Burckhardt's Cultur der Renaissance, or the 
writings of Gregorovius, but even this rather in 
remembrance of a just completed journey than 
in preparation for the same. Also when visiting 
churches and museums, he did not often consult 
the guide-books, preferring to rely on his own 
perception of what was most worthy of admira- 
tion. He would walk at a rapid pace through 
the galleries. Where he paused one might be 
sure that there was some true work of Art or 
something particularly original to be seen. Then 
he would beckon to his companion, and draw his 
attention to some delicate touches in the picture ; 
but sometimes he preferred to be alone, as the 
sight of the most transcendent beauty easily moved 
him almost to tears. An instance of this was 
the ' Betrothal of St Catherine/ by Parmigiano, 
in the gallery at Parma, a picture which, in the 
graciousness of the many indescribably lovely 
faces of fair-haired children and girls, is a true 
symphony of sweetness, unsurpassed even by the 
masterpieces of Correggio in the same gallery. 
Deeply impressed, Brahms stood long before this 
picture. Altogether it did not require the tragic- 
ally sublime to move him deeply ; pure beauty, if 
ever so simply expressed, could do this. 

It certainly cannot be said that, when in Italy, 
Brahms went in search of music, as was the case 



IN ITALY 149 

with Mendelssohn or NIcolai in the first decades 
of this century. The German musician living at 
Vienna, and having the library of the Gesellschaft 
der Musikfreunde at his disposal, in addition 
his own rich collection of manuscript scores, did 
not need to go to Italy to seek for old Italian 
Church music. Besides, with the possible ex- 
ception of the season of Easter at Rome, one 
seldom hears any of the beautiful old masses in 
the Italian cathedrals, but rather insignificant, if 
melodious, works of modern composers. And, 
as the experience of many travellers shows, the 
organists do not even hesitate to play such trivial 
things as operettas during the service; a fact 
quite sufficient in itself to scare away a musician 
like Brahms. There are even, as in Parma, some 
organs fitted with stops imitating Turkish music 
with drums and bells. 

Operatic performances in Italy had also but 
little attraction for Brahms ; but he entertained 
great respect for the Maestro Verdi, speaking 
of him in enthusiastic terms, 1 and dwelling with 

1 In the 86th ( Neujahrsheft der Musikgesellschaft in Zurich J 
(1898), we read the following anecdote about Brahms and Verdi, 
which we owe to Dr Friedrich Hegar : 

'Upon once hearing Billow speak in disparaging terms of 
Verdi's "Requiem," Brahms went immediately to Hug's music- 
shop (in Zurich), and obtaining the pianoforte score, read it through. 
When he had finished it, he said : "Billow has made a fool of 
himself for all time ; only a genius could have written that." ' 

The above-mentioned pamphlet, which only deals with Brahms, 



I5o IN ITALY 

pleasure on the fact that in his habits of life, 
such as early rising, simplicity in clothing, and 
unostentatious demeanour, Verdi resembled him- 
self. He was greatly interested in my account 
of a visit I had paid, in the spring of 1887, to 
the peasant's cottage at Roncole where, in 1813, 
Verdi was born, and also to the neighbouring 
town of Busseto where he now possesses a 
villa. Often did I narrate how Verdi would 
drive over to Cremona for the horse-fair, in order 
to exercise his practised eye in the selection of 
purchases for his stables ; or how I had visited the 
priest, Antonio Chiapperi at Roncole, in order to 
investigate the truth of the legend, which Arthur 
Pougin incorrectly relates in his biography of 
Verdi, and according to which Russian soldiers 
had, in the year 1814, massacred the inhabitants 
of the little village, from which Verdi's mother 
rescued him by carrying the one-year-old baby 
up to the bells in the Campanile. 

Brahms's great predilection for Verdi was 
chiefly due to the fact that, like himself, Verdi 
was a true child of the people. But, notwith- 
standing this personal sympathy, Brahms when 
in Italy could never be persuaded to go to hear 
one of Verdi's operas ; the mere fact that there 
these performances commence at a late hour and 

and especially with his connection with Zurich, is by A. Steiner, 
whom Brahms greatly esteemed as a musical critic. 



IN ITALY 151 

often continue till after midnight, was enough 
to deter him from doing so, as, even when 
travelling, he usually rose before five o'clock 
in the morning. 

On the other hand, in addition to the works 
of plastic Art, it was essentially the character 
of the Italian people which made Italy so dear 
to Brahms. As an artist, he delighted in the 
spontaneity and fervour of a people who, by 
virtue of their inheritance of centuries of refin- 
ing culture, even in violent outbreaks of passion, 
do not become repulsive ; on the contrary, in 
such moments frequently gain a new attraction, 
which in our cold-blooded North can only be 
admired in dramatic representations. Brahms, 
though he could not bear exaggeration of senti- 
ment, was yet averse to the manner of the North 
German and the Swiss, which is so frequently 
cold and formal, and chary of any show of real 
feeling, or, in moments of powerful emotion, easily 
becomes rough and violent. He was fully aware 
that he himself was not quite free from this fault, 
and would openly acknowledge that his manner 
was occasionally calculated to wound even a 
friend, and was always ready to apologise if 
he had cause to fear that in an unguarded 
moment he had given offence. The more he 
discovered deficiencies in this respect in our 
German character in general and in his own 



152 IN ITALY 

in particular which deficiencies occupied his 
mind greatly, causing him much compunction 
the more did he delight in living for months 
among a people who, owing to their native tact 
and refined instincts, do not require the artificial 
polish of the higher classes, in order to retain 
their charm of manner under any circumstances. 

In his intercourse with the Italians, Brahms 
took special pains not to be behindhand with 
them in the suavity of manner and the exceeding 
courtesy which distinguishes them. For instance, 
even in a compartment pei fumatori, he would 
never light his cigarette without having first in- 
quired of any signora, who chanced to be in the 
carriage, whether she would permit him to smoke. 
But with him, politeness had its root in truly 
heartfelt kindness, as instanced by the fact that, 
upon arriving at an hotel at night, it was his 
custom, even if he stayed up another hour in 
his room, immediately to put his boots outside 
the door, 'so that no poor servant should have 
his sleeping-time curtailed by having to wait for 
them!* Meanwhile he, himself, despising such 
things as slippers, walked about in his socks on 
the marble or tiled floor, thus displaying an 
absence of physical sensitiveness of which very 
few can boast. 

As a rule, Brahms was an extremely close 
and critical observer of everything in life; but 



IN ITALY 153: 



his preference for the Italian ^harg^ter was so 
greatr <*a~^^TXT^^ him blind to its 

faults. For instance, he refused to see the shady 
side of life in Italy, the poverty and sad condition 
of the peasantry ; it would have been too painful 
for him to think of this people as unhappy, 
From a similar feeling, he would try to persuade 
himself that cruelty to animals had so decreased 
in Italy as hardly to be any longer worthy of 
mention. As regards certain towns in Northern 
and Central Italy this view is in some degree 
justified by facts, more especially is this the 
case in Tuscany, where, among a more refined 
population, gentler customs prevail ; but Brahms 
wished to extend this assertion even to Southern 
Italy and Sicily, and could, in his zeal as 
defender of the Italian people, even go 'so 
far as to speak on behalf of the Sicilian's bad 
habit of taking a gun with him on every 
walk, and shooting down whatever crosses his 
path. 

He also did not believe in brigandage. When 
(in 1893), we ascended Monte Pellegrino near 
Palermo, Brahms was really vexed that, at the 
foot of the mountain where there is a police- 
station, one of the Guardia civile received an 
order to accompany us foreigners, so that no 
unpleasant adventure might occur, and give the 
town and neighbourhood a bad name. And it 



54 IN ITALY 

was only after we had met, on the road to the 
temples at Girgenti, seveidi v^ric^co filled 
with schoolgirls and their teachers on their way 
to visit the famous ruins, and had been told 
that It was by order of the town authorities 
jjia^'they were also accompanied by three police- 
men, mounted and fully armed, that Brahms 
unwillingly acknowledged that, as regards public 
security, things were not quite as they should 
be in Sicily. 

I only mention these incidents as they show 
how carefully Brahms guarded those ideal illusions, 
which were necessary to his undisturbed enjoy- 
ment of Italy. His only desire was to be happy 
there, to be perfectly happy ; and, like the 
Olympian gods, he turned his countenance away 
from all that might damp his pleasure in the 
present. 

Every sign of United Italy's increasing pros- 
perity was welcomed by him with delight And 
although when, in May 1893, we drove through 
the streets of Rome to see the preparations for 
the reception of the German Emperor, Brahms 
was quite agreed that we should escape from the 
festive bustle to some quieter spot, still, as we 
drove under the numerous triumphal arches in the 
Via Nazionale, with the flags of both countries 
waving over our heads, the smile of satisfaction 
which lighted up his face testified to the pleasure 



IN ITALY 155 

he derived from the thought of a fraternisation 
between the Italian and German nations. And 
during the following days, he read the accounts 
of the festivities in the Italian papers with the 
greatest attention, finding in the Emperor's visit 
something like an historical and harmonious 
solution of those discords caused in the Middle 
Ages by the unwelcome and baneful incursions 
of the German armies into Italy. 

It is hardly necessary to add that the beauty 
of the Italian landscapes had great fascination 
for Brahms, especially that combination of lux- 
uriant vegetation and imposing architecture which 
is productive of such lovely effects. He also 
knew how to appreciate those pleasant things 
the good wines, the well-prepared dishes of the 
true Italian pranzo, the excellent coffee, the large 
and almost princely beds in spacious apartments 
which make life in Italy so agreeable to the 
traveller who ventures to deviate from the beaten 
track. Apart from the fact that, accustomed as he 
was to the exquisite Viennese cookery, he appreci- 
ated a good table, he cared but little about luxury, 
and could on occasion be quite satisfied to spend 
a night in the poorest hostelry ; yet he liked the 
southern love of brightness, as displayed in the 
fancifully-painted ceilings of the alberghi or the 
splendour of the table appointments, etc. It 
seemed to him that where Nature is so lavish 



156 IN ITALY 

with her gifts, a certain love of show and grandeur 
is but in keeping. At the same time his mind 
revolted against any over-indulgence in material 
pleasures. It is true that, knowing his own rest- 
less energy, he sometimes tried to persuade him- 
self to say to the fleeting hour, ' Verweile doch, 
du bist so schon' (*Oh, linger yet, thou art so 
beautiful ') ; and in many a letter, in which he 
year by year asked me to be his companion on a 
journey to Italy, did he assure me of his good 
resolution to loiter this time in some quiet spot, 
such an one for instance as Amalfi. But he found 
it difficult to carry out these good intentions. 
From his youth upwards accustomed to filling 
every hour with work, his mind was always on 
the search for fresh outlets of energy, and often, 
when I proposed a slower tempo for our 
tours, did he jokingly reproach me with in- 
dulging in the idea that one could travel for 
pleasure only, in a country where at every step 
there was so much that was new to be seen. 

The Italians, on their side, returned Brahms's 
love for them by an instinctively respectful ad- 
miration for the silver-bearded German with 
the noble countenance, even though they knew 
not who he was. More than once, when Brahms 
was dozing in a corner of the railway carriage, 
did our fellow-passengers whisper the conjecture 
that this stranger must be a * uomo di genio.' 



IN ITALY 157 

And as we were leaving the Hotel * Croce di 
Malta 7 at Padua, where during a short stay 
we had often chatted over dinner with our 
stately Padrona, what was our surprise when 
the latter gave a signal to her beautiful young 
niece, who immediately stepped up to Brahms, 
and throwing her arms gracefully round his 
neck, imprinted a kiss in optima forma upon 
the lips of the astounded musician. And though 
afterwards I also was a recipient of a similar 
'gentilezza/ I never doubted that I owed this 
odd dismissal from an albergo to the impres- 
sion which the personality of my companion 
had made upon the Signora Caterina BianchL 
And on another occasion, when in Palermo, 
we four travellers were being shown over San 
Giovanni degli Eremiti (formerly an Arabian 
mosque) by a particularly intelligent and obliging 
guide, who it turned out was one of the thousand 
of Marsala and had fought under Garibaldi ; 
suddenly he stopped short in the middle of his 
fluent explanations, and gazing at Brahms, ex- 
claimed with enthusiasm : * Ah ! mi pare di parlare 
al mio venerabile generale Garibaldi!' With 
the quick intuition of the Southerner, he had 
divined that the stranger before him was no 
ordinary man, and, knowing no better mode of 
expressing his homage, he compared him with 
his beloved general, adding afterwards that with 



i $8 IN ITALY 

him Garibaldi came immediately after Christ. 
Brahms received the compliment, which evidently 
pleased him, with a cheery smile and a bright 
glance of his deep blue eyes. 

Let it be understood that the journeys here 
referred to are only those on which I had the 
privilege of being Brahms's companion. We 
had already visited Italy, independently of each 
other, Brahms perhaps even oftener than I. l 
But since through the summers in Thun our 
intimacy had grown, and we had made many 
a little tour in the Alps together, Brahms wished 
me to join him in his visits to Italy, our anti- 
pathies and predilections in travelling being in 
unison, this was especially evident in our mutual 
dislike of large hotels with their crowds of tourists 
of all nationalities, both of us preferring small 
and purely Italian hotels. 

1 Even Professor Ed. Hanslick, to whom I applied for information, 
was unable to tell me how many times and in which years Brahms 
visited Italy. But he referred me to Billroth's Letters, from which 
it appears that in the year 1878 Brahms was with Billroth in Rome, 
Naples and Sicily, that for the years 1879 an< i J ^82 such journeys 
were planned by Brahms and Billroth and probably also carried 
out, whilst in a letter, dated Palermo, April loth, 1 880, Billroth regrets 
that Brahms had not shared that tour with him. Further it is 
certain that in the spring of 1882 Brahms was in Rome, as he then 
asked me to meet him on the Palatine. There in 1878 he had met 
my daughter when on her honeymoon : * That is the nicest place for 
a rendezvous ! * Finally I am also aware of the fact that in 1887 
Brahms travelled in Italy with Theodor Kirchner and Simrock the 
publisher. We had planned a meeting in Bologna, which, however, 
did not take place. 



IN ITALY 159 

Thus it happened that I was Brahms's com- 
panion on the three last journeys he undertook 
in Italy. 1 Soon after New Year he used to 
inquire per letter whether I thought of going 
southwards. ' If you should be thinking of 
even the most modest excursion on the other 
side of the Alps for the spring, do ask yourself 
whether you might not be accompanied by your 
B.' I still possess many of these notes, almost 
touching in their modesty. Unfortunately I was 
not always able to reply in the affirmative, as, 
after a winter of hard work, I frequently felt the 
need of a quieter holiday than was possible with 
the friend who, though nine years my senior, was 
far my superior in untiring vigour. But if I had 
been able to express my willingness to accompany 
him what delight spoke from the letters and 
post-cards which flew to me from Vienna ! * I 
expect splendidly restful 'and restless weeks ! You 
have only to command when and where I must 
appear.' Or again : ' you must bring with you 
something very important for a journey in Italy ! 
Now you will be thinking that I want a 
Burckhardt or a Gregorovius. Not at all, I 
only beg you, before passing the frontier, to put 
two or three little blue packets of French tobacco, 
(Caporal) in your pockets and bag for me 1 ' Or : 

1 A fuller account of these journeys wilt be found in Sizilien und 
andere Gegenden Italiens by the same author. 



t6o IN ITALY 

' If you reach Riva before I do, you will of course 
bespeak a small room for me, and if I arrive by 
the last train md Mori, I shall hope to find you 
sitting happily over a glass of wine. Only let us 
take it easily ; after all it is delightful everywhere 
in that land of beauty. Padua would be quite 
agreeable to me, and you certainly should see 
Orvieto, and I should also like to go to Perugia, 
and you ought to go to Palermo. Do what you 
like, I am ready for anything. Wishing us both 
everything that is good and pleasant/ etc. 

The first of our journeys in Italy was in May 
1888, when we went through the Marches to 
Umbria, on to Rome and back through Pied- 
mont. I had joined Brahms at Verona, our 
first goal being Bologna, where an International 
Musical Exhibition was being held, to which 
many interesting manuscripts had been lent by 
the libraries of all Europe. Although Brahms, 
for his part, did not anticipate much satisfaction 
from such an exhibition, still he did not want to 
pass it by. All the same he felt himself in his 
real element as we threaded our way between 
the glass cases in which, along with old masses 
on illuminated parchments, were exhibited the 
manuscript scores of Mozart's ' Zauberflote/ 
Beethoven's 'Fidelio,' Cimarosa's 'Matrimonio 
Segreto/ and innumerable manuscripts of works 
by German and Italian composers up to the 



IN ITALY 161 

present day. Rare old instruments were also 
exhibited, amongst these, some horns, trombones 
and clarionets of most extraordinary forms. 
However, for a concert, arranged by the com- 
mittee of the festival in honour of the Queen 
of Italy, at which these curious instruments 
(amongst them the true Viol d' Amour) were to 
be used, Brahms predicted but little success ; and 
in point of fact, the result was very ridiculous, as 
the old-fashioned instruments, the handling of 
which the players found very awkward, sounded 
so thin, squeaking and chirping to ears accus- 
tomed to our modern orchestras, that the Court 
ladies began to titter, and the whole performance 
became a farcical comedy. 

Brahms detested any affectation in Art, and 
could be mercilessly ironical on this subject ; 
none the less could he be roused to enthusiasm 
over any real capacity, even if displayed under 
the most wretched conditions. For instance, 
one night in the Arcades at Bologna we came 
upon a deaf-mute, who, by the light of a stump 
of stearine candle, was drawing the life-sized 
figure of Cavour with black chalk on the flags. 
When a passer-by paused, he shed the light of 
his dip over his work. A plate lay beside it, 
ready to receive the soldo with which such street 
art is sometimes rewarded. But here was a fresh 
surprise, as the sound of the metal coin on the 

L 



162 IN ITALY 

hard pavement proved that this was no real plate, 
but an imitation which, by means of good 
shading, had been made to appear quite genuine. 
Brahms was \varm in praise of the poor artist's 
ingenious device, his alms also proving how it 
touched him that, among this gifted people, 
even the beggar knows how to cover his 
nakedness with a lappet of the sumptuous 
garment of Art. 

This time in Bologna, Brahms could not 
retain his incognito, as was his habit when in 
Italy, being, of course, recognised by German 
musicians and music critics visiting the exhibi- 
tion. When the director of the Bolognese Con- 
servatoire and conductor of the Opera, Maestro 
Martucci (who, although yet quite a young 
man, had already brought the number of his 
compositions up to Opus 66), heard of the 
presence of the great German musician, whom he 
had so long worshipped from afar, he sent his 
card to our hotel of the ' Quattro Pellegrini/ 
requesting permission to pay his respects to 
Brahms in person. This meeting, at which I 
was present in order, if necessary, to act as 
interpreter for Brahms, though able to read 
Italian, could not converse in that language is 
engraved indelibly upon my memory. Upon 
entering the room the young maestro prostrated 
himself nearly to the ground before Brahms, and, 



IN ITALY 163 

in spite of the German musician's resistance, 
kissed his hand. With much vivacity of manner, 
he commenced telling us that he had recently 
performed Brahms's second symphony in Naples ; 
and then passing to his chamber compositions, 
all of which he seemed to know by heart, he 
began to sing the different themes, pausing only 
to speak with enthusiasm of discoveries he 
had made in the scores of certain finesses of 
workmanship not patent to the uninitiated, for 
instance, the wonderful way in which Brahms 
treats the middle voices. Very soon my inter- 
vention as interpreter became superfluous in 
this conversation, as Brahms, in his turn, eked 
out what he wanted to say by singing cer- 
tain themes; and by these means, the two 
musicians were enabled to understand each 
other perfectly. 

It was an extraordinary scene, and I silently 
thought it must be similar to what would have 
taken place had Bach, in his time, visited the 
Italians ; Albrecht Dlirer also came into my 
mind, as I glanced from the big, serious German 
musician to the fiery and supple Italian. After 
Maestro Martucci had taken his departure, 
Brahms spoke warmly in praise of his intelligent 
penetration into the essence of German music. 

The following day we went on to Rimini, and 
also visited the little Republic of San Marino, 



164 IN ITALY 

whence Brahms sent many of the droll San 
Marino post-cards to his friends at Vienna. 
What pleasure he took in comparing the old 
residence of the princes of Malatesta and of San 
Francesco, the proud home of this race of 
tyrants, with the poor little ' Postage Stamp 
Republic'; thus bantering his companion on his 
republicanism ! Altogether on this tour his good 
humour was invincible. As we passed through 
Pesaro, he insisted that, even if we did not make 
a halt, we should at least do honour to the 
memory of Rossini by each of us singing some 
air out of the c Barbiere di Seviglia ' ; and, as we 
chanced to be alone in the railway carriage, his 
proposal was duly carried out. 

From Ancona we went a trip to Loreto, the 
famous place of pilgrimage, where we witnessed 
a scene by which Brahms was most deeply 
impressed A procession had arrived from some 
world-forsaken villages in the Abruzzi, and the 
pilgrims were dragging themselves on their knees 
towards the sanctuary the wonderful Casa 
Santa Lauretana singing hymns, which vibrated 
in the vault of the huge church. Two young 
girls, crowned with ivy like young Bacchantes, 
headed this strange procession ; they also were 
kneeling, though, from their rapt, uplifted gaze, 
it was evident that they were quite unconscious of 
the effort they were making. Their wild beauty 



IN ITALY 165 

increased the sympathy excited by the evident 
intensity of their feeling. Their luxuriant black 
tresses thrown back, they kept their fervent 
glance fixed on the sanctuary. They joined in the 
singing, their voices trembling with excitement, 
continually smiting their breasts with clenched 
hands with such violence that the hollow sound 
seemed to clash with the tones of the processional 
hymn. We noticed the streaming eyes of the girl 
who was nearest to us, though she appeared quite 
unconscious of her tears. The other pilgrims 
followed closely in her wake; and the nearer 
they approached the Casa Santa, the more 
vehement did their gestures become. The in- 
tense excitement of this ecstatic crowd was so 
genuine that it communicated itself to us. It 
was so palpable that these poor people would 
have plucked their hearts from out their 
bosoms, as an offering at the shrine towards 
which they were thus painfully struggling on 
their knees, that we felt our own hearts throb 
with excitement at this sight and these sounds. 
Mingled with our emotion, was a deep joy 
at being witness to such a remarkable demon- 
stration of passionate devotion, which we could 
hardly believe possible in our day, seeming 
more to belong to the age of the Crusades. 
On the other hand we felt deep commisera- 
tion for this poor people, who were here 



1 66 IN ITALY 

pouring out their innermost soul, whilst the 
priests, standing on the steps of the Casa 
Santa, appeared quite indifferent to the 
kneeling crowd. To my inquiry as to whence 
these people came, a priest replied, in almost 
contemptuous tones : ' Sono Abruzzesi ! Stupid 
people ! Many more of them come in Sep- 
tember, processions of about a thousand heads. 
This is nothing in comparison. 5 

It was long before Brahms could find words 
to express his feelings of sympathy and pity, 
so great was his emotion. And during the 
following days, we constantly recurred to this 
remarkable scene, and to the impression we 
had received, Brahms never failing to empha- 
sise the thesis which he often put forward : 
that the power of the Romish Church is much 
under-estimated by our politicians. 

Altogether in Italy the occasions were 
frequent on which Brahms's liberal Protestant 
feelings were aroused ; but, on the other hand, 
I must emphasise the fact that he was ever 
most careful not to wound the religious sensi- 
bilities of those around him. For instance, if 
upon entering a church he saw that the 
worshippers turned to look at the newcomer, 
he would never omit to feign to dip his 
finger in the benitier and lightly make the 
sign of the Cross, in order not to scandalise 



IN ITALY 167 

the believers by the intrusion of a heretic, 
careless of their religious customs. So great 
was the true courtesy of this man, whom 
superficial observers considered rough, hard, 
and even ungracious. 

From Ancona we went through the Umbrian 
Apennines into Roman territory. On the 
railway journey, which traverses the lovely 
valley of Clitumnus, Brahms frequently ex- 
pressed regret that we should run past such 
interesting old towns as Fabriano, Gubbio 
and Trevi, the Algiers of Italy; rightly think- 
ing that one ought to have gone through 
these parts on foot. But some things we did 
enjoy as pedestrians. Spoleto, for instance, 
with its wonderful bridge, and Monte Luco, 
where formerly the Carmelite monks had their 
hermitages, now turned into villas ; and then 
Terni with the grand waterfall of the Vellino. 

In Rome, also, we went about much on 
foot. I especially recall to mind a long and 
fatiguing walk we took one morning along 
the Via Appia, when I suffered much anxiety 
on account of my companion, as, in accordance 
with his favourite habit, he was carrying his 
hat in his hand and, what with the burning 
sun and the exertion of walking along the 
dusty road, I noticed his face become alarm- 
ingly red. Fortunately we came across a 



i68 IN ITALY 

ruined inn, where we could obtain shelter 
from the heat, and refresh ourselves with the 
white wine of the country. 

On another excursion to Tivoli and Hadrian's 
Villa, Brahms had the great satisfaction of wit- 
nessing a little scene, which proved that, in and 
about Rome, the renown of the German scholar 
Mommsen had penetrated even to the lower 
classes. This celebrated archaeologist happened 
to be waiting, at the same time with us, for 
the steam-tram from Tivoli at the little station 
at Hadrian's Villa. A vendor of coins and 
pieces of marble came and displayed his wares 
before the great scholar. Mommsen did not 
buy anything, but volunteered some informa- 
tion about the age and value of certain coins. 
The young vendor, profiting by the oppor- 
tunity, asked the stranger, who seemed to know 
so much of this subject, about other things, 
such as the probable whereabouts of certain 
buried towns; and as he possibly began gradu- 
ally to suspect with whom he was speaking, 
he casually dropped the remark that just then 
there was staying in Rome a German scholar, 
* Pillustrissimo Mommsen, 5 who thoroughly under- 
stood all these things. ' Son' io ! ' said Mommsen, 
simply, smiling quietly. At this the vendor and 
the simple folk round him appeared greatly 
impressed, saying to each other in awestruck 



IN ITALY 169 

tones, ' That is Mommsen, the great German 
scholar!' Then turning to me, Brahms ex- 
claimed, 'At what wayside station in Germany 
would it be possible to witness such a scene? 
Where would the slightest notice be taken of 
the presence of the great archaeologist, except 
by the educated classes?' At the same time 
it evidently gave him pleasure that such things 
were possible in Italy, and especially that he 
should have been there to witness this little 
scene. 

Faithfulness as all his friends know was a 
predominant characteristic of Brahms. Thus 
it was in memory of his friend Anselm Feuer- 
bach that we visited the former cafe of the 
German artists, the 'Genio/ near the Fontana 
Trevi, which, however, has now quite fallen out 
of favour. An excursion to Nettuno and Porto 
d'Anzio was also undertaken in memory of 
Feuerbach, as it was on the shores of these 
places that he had made studies for his ' Medea.' 
Here Brahms found an opportunity of indulg- 
ing in one of his greatest pleasures, that of 
making friends with intelligent and unspoiled 
children ; as, soon after we reached the beach, 
we were surrounded by a circle of charming 
little boys, who were delighted to enter into 
the fun which the 'Signor Prussiano' proposed. 
Not only did they exhibit for our benefit their 



1 70 IN ITALY 

prowess in swimming by diving for the usual 
coins, but they also showed off their school- 
learning; thus one of them, to whom Brahms 
had given paper and pencil, wrote, with a sly 
hit at the exterior of the merry stranger, the 
words 'grasso, grigio/ as well as his name 
Felippo Treglia. This little lad had followed 
Brahms about like a faithful dog; and, as the 
train moved out of the station, he looked after 
us with his large dark eyes, waving a last 
farewell 

As Brahms intended to spend that summer 
(1888) at Thun, we also took the return journey 
together, travelling by way of Turin and Milan 
over the St Gotthard. 

Our second tour, undertaken in the spring 
of 1890, was limited to Northern Italy. It 
was on a cold day in April that I met Brahms 
at Riva on the Lake of Garda, and Brahms 
was mighty proud of his good idea of wearing 
three pairs of trousers, one on the top of the 
other, on the bitterly cold night journey over 
the mountain from Mori to Riva. Such practical 
inspirations could put him into a happy mood 
for the whole day. Altogether let it not be 
imagined that Brahms was dependent upon 
others or unpractical when travelling. Only 
one thing was difficult to him, that was to find 
his way about a town, even one he had often 



IN ITALY 171 

visited. On the other hand he possessed great 
dexterity in the use of the railway guide, and 
soon found out the most convenient combina- 
tion of trains for a cross-country journey. He 
also was very quick in grasping any dilemma 
in which the traveller may be placed upon 
arriving at station or hotel, and made his 
decisions promptly and with great presence of 
mind. I frequently had to admire his correct 
judgment of our fellow-travellers, and alto- 
gether acknowledged that his demeanour when 
travelling was a fresh proof that artistic genius 
does not necessarily blunt the perceptions for 
the common things of life. 

It was on this tour that we visited the picture 
gallery at Parma, and Brahms saw that picture 
by Parmigiano which charmed him so greatly. 
Cremona, though rather off the beaten track, 
was also one of our chief resting-places on this 
journey. Brahms showed particular interest in 
this town, so renowned through its violin makers. 
We stayed at the little Hotel Pavone, and soon 
discovered that the young landlord was also 
a parruchiere, that is a barber, and, like his 
famous colleague of Seville, a general factotum, 
as he was an excellent violinist, played in the 
principal orchestra, and gave private lessons on 
the violin. It was Good Friday, and until late 
in the evening he practised his part for the 



I 7 2 IN ITALY 

Easter Mass in the cathedral on the following 
day. 

The same evening, as we were strolling about 
the streets under brilliant moonlight, upon turn- 
ing a corner we suddenly found ourselves oppo- 
site the cathedral, and Brahms was quite over- 
whelmed by the sight of the beautiful marble 
facade with its fabulously romantic outline. 
It certainly is one of the most original edifices 
in Italy; begun in 1107, completed in the i6th 
century, a wild symphony in stones, a piece 
of emotional architecture executed in bold 
and mighty forms. The protruding front, sup- 
ported by pillars, with its balcony of white 
marble, certainly contributes to this impression, 
and the whole fa$ade is richly sculptured. 
Next to the cathedral rises the gloomy and 
gigantic Torrazzo, the highest tower in Italy. 
Brahms could hardly tear himself away from 
this "beautiful sight, and, returning there later 
that same evening, we watched the magical 
effects of the moonlight on this mighty pile, 
as it glided over the marble surface and 
statues, the shadowy Torrazzo seeming to 
reach unto the heavens, the dark shadows in 
the vaulted porch alternating with bright 
patches of moonlight, the statues looking like 
the living figures of a dream of bygone 
days. 



IN ITALY 173 

In the presence of all this beauty, Brahms 
was glad to recall that Claudio Monteverde, 
* the Father of the Opera/ was born at 
Cremona, where a street now bears his name. 
And the following day, when, in the beautiful 
Gothic church of San Agostino, he discovered 
a statue of Saint Joachim, he jokingly remarked, 
in affectionate allusion to his oldest friend, 
' That is quite fitting, that there should be a 
monument to Joachim in the venerable city of 
violins. 1 

We heard early Mass in the old church of 
San Sigismondo, situated about three-quarters 
of an hour outside the town, where once upon 
a time Bianca Visconti was married to the 
powerful Sforza. At ten o'clock we were 
present at the great choral Mass in the cathe- 
dral, which was celebrated by the archbishop. 
The mass was the composition of a Cremonese 
musician, named Andreotti, a man of such 
small stature that he hardly reached up to 
an ordinary table. Brahms thought that, 
considering this circumstance, his melodies 
were surprisingly cheerful. It especially amused 
us that, after the tenor solo, sung by a popular 
opera singer, the audience, quite oblivious of 
their surroundings, broke out into a more than 
whispered ' Bravo.' 

On the same journey we visited Brescia, 



174 IN ITALY 

Vicenza, Padua, and finally returned to Verona, 
whence Brahms went home to Vienna alone. 
One result of restricting this tour to a small 
area was that we had more time for quiet 
enjoyment, and could take things leisurely, 
which was more conducive to pleasant inter- 
course than much travelling. On this tour 
Brahms frequently spoke of his own compositions, 
a subject on which he was generally most reti- 
cent. The ' Zigeuner Lieder ' (Gipsy Songs) had 
just been published; and Brahms discoursed at 
length on the question as to what poems were 
or were not suitable for composition, flavouring 
his remarks with an occasional hit at those 
musicians who followed his example in taking 
words by Goethe or Schiller, but, not having 
made a happy selection, the result left much 
to be desired. He seemed to have a cheap 
edition of his works, a real people's edition, 
much at heart. It also gave him evident 
pleasure to see his sonatas for pianoforte in 
the window of a very modest-looking music- 
shop at Padua. 

In the spring of 1893 I started with Brahms 
on our third journey to Italy, which proved to 
be his last visit to that lovely land, which 
always had such a magnetic attraction for him. 
Brahms was also hoping thus to avoid the 
celebration of his sixtieth birthday. Not that 



IN ITALY 175 

he was ever indifferent to any tokens of affec- 
tion or respect offered him! On the contrary, 
even when at the height of his fame, he always 
showed a nai've delight in any homage that 
came upon him unexpectedly. But still he 
preferred to avoid a possible banquet or solemn 
deputations. And as in every case he longed 
to re-visit Sicily for he agreed that, as Goethe 
wrote to Madame de Stein, * Italy without Sicily 
is an incomplete picture, for here is the key 
to everything ' a journey thither seemed to offer 
the most suitable alternative. 

This time two musicians from Zurich, friends 
of both Brahms and myself, were of the party, 
Dr Friedrich Hegar the conductor, and the 
pianist Robert Freund. We met Brahms at 
Milan, intending to embark at Genoa. But 
upon arriving at the port of Genoa, on the i6th 
April^ we found the only ship bound for Sicily 
was an Hungarian one; whereupon Brahms 
remarked, with a joking hit at the Hungarian 
origin of Robert Freund, that although, accord- 
ing to the ' Winter s Tale/ the Bohemians were 
a seafaring nation, this assertion had not yet 
been made with regard to the Hungarians. 
And so we went by rail to Naples. 

Professor Ed. Hanslick was then staying 
with his wife at Sorrento, and thither we went 
to visit him. It was a lovely, warm, spring day 



176 IN ITALY 

and the dolphins were playing in the waves of 
the Bay of Naples, as they had done in days of 
yore, in the wake of Arion's ships. After a 
hearty welcome from his old friend, Brahms 
spent a pleasant day in the orange garden on 
the high rocks above the sea. When we were 
at table, someone proposed to drink champagne, 
but Brahms, seizing hold of his mighty fiasco 
of Chianti, refused to hear of any other wine ; 
whereupon Hanslick called out to us that now 
he really could give the world some news about 
Brahms : ' Gran fiasco di Brahms ! ' Among 
the guests at the Albergo Vittoria was also 
Schulhoff, the pianist, who, though in indifferent 
health, yet enjoyed participating in our uncon- 
strained conversation. And autograph collectors 
reaped a good harvest that afternoon. 

On the next evening we sailed for Sicily on 
board the Oddone, a steamer of the Florio- 
Rubbatino Company. Former experiences had 
taught Brahms that, in spite of his Hamburg 
birth, he could not be sure of having such a good 
appetite on sea as on land; but this time he 
was soon at ease on this subject, as we had the 
finest crossing imaginable, on which even the 
most nervous of ladies could not have been ill. 
We spent the greater part of the night on deck, 
and Brahms was able, for the first time, to enjoy 
the peculiar charm of a night voyage. Behind 



IN ITALY 177 

the ship was a track of phosphorescent ripples, 
out of which fantastic shapes appeared now and 
again to flash into sight. Then came the 
wonderful sunrise, and at the same time the 
Bay of Palermo with Monte Pellegrino and the 
picturesque rocks of Cape Zaffarana appeared 
in view. 

I enjoyed Sicily as a newcomer ; but Brahms 
also was as interested in all around him as if 
this were his first visit. What pleasure he 
took in scanning the romantic scenes painted 
in bright colours upon the two-wheeled carts, 
especially if these pictures recalled episodes in 
the poems of Ariosto or Tasso ! He never 
tired of praising the craving for beauty of a 
people who paint even the spokes of every 
peasant's waggon, and decorate every cross- 
bar with angels' heads, flowers, or, at least, 
tinsel, whilst the largest surface of the vehicle 
exhibits a dramatic representation of a scene 
out of the Bible, some legend, classical national 
poem, or event in history. The spendid harness 
of the very draught-horses, towers of brass with 
half-moons, stars and bells on the horses' collars 
all came in for a share of his admiration. 

From Palermo we went to Girgenti, where 
we stayed at the Albergo Belvedere, the 
windows and balconies of which command a 
view on the steep descent to the plain, and 

M 



1 7 8 IN ITALY 

the wonderful ancient temples by the sea. 
Two mornings we spent among the awe-inspir- 
ing ruins; where the sight of Brahms sitting 
on the lowest steps of the Temple of Juno, 
his bare head and silvery beard illuminated by 
the morning sun, involuntarily brought to my 
mind that Grecian tragic poet of whom the 
legend tells how, when staying here as a friend 
of Theron, the noble ruler of Agrigentum, he 
met his death, when nearly seventy years old, 
through a curious occurrence, whilst he was 
sitting by the sea; an eagle soaring aloft 
dropped a tortoise upon his head. 

Then on to Catania and Syracuse, with its 
catacombs and underground prisons, Arethusa's 
Spring, and the grave of Platen, which Brahms, 
who had spt to music several of his poems (for 
instance, 'Wie rafft ich mich auf in der Nacht, 
in der Nacht') did not wish to leave unvisited. 

From Syracuse we went to Brahms's favourite 
spot, Taormina, where once he had spent some 
happy April days with his friend Billroth. A 
letter from Billroth to Hanslick, written during 
that sojourn, which the latter has kindly placed 
at my disposal, consists only of exclamations of 
delight 'Five hundred feet above the mur- 
muring waves! Full moon! Intoxicating scent 
of orange blossoms, red cactus blooming as 
luxuriantly on the huge, picturesque rocks as 



IN ITALY 179 

moss does with us ! Forests of palms and 
lemons, Moorish castles, well-preserved Greek 
theatre! The broad line of snow-clad Etna, 
the pillar of fire ! Add to this a wine called 
Monte Venere ! Above all Johannes in ecstasy. 
And I, roused to such a pitch of excitement 
as to boldly sing bits out of his quartetts! 
If only you were with us, you dear old Hans ! ' 
On this second visit, Brahms's delight with 
Taormina was as great as ever; above all, he 
enjoyed the hours we spent in the ancient 
theatre. One day we ascended the hill to 
Mola, the former city of the Saracens, perched 
on rocky pinnacles. Uphill walking was rather 
a difficulty with Brahms ; but his downhill pace 
resembled that of a rolling ball, and his com- 
panions frequently found it hard work to keep 
up with him, as was also the case with us that 
afternoon, as we were returning from Mola, 
Brahms was far ahead, and, missing the way, 
found himself upon the edge of a quarry down 
which he clambered, and probably would not 
have reached the bottom safe and sound, had 
not a man, who was working close by, seen 
him and come to his aid. When we met him 
again at Taormina, Brahms was not at all 
pleased with himself, but blamed himself for 
imprudence and clumsiness. I only mention 
this little incident in order to show that, if 



i8o IN ITALY 

Brahms could sometimes be hard and severe 
to others, he was none the less so to himself. 

But fortunately it was I, and not Brahms, who 
was destined to end this journey with an accident. 
In the harbour of Messina, on board the Asia, 
which was to take us back to Naples, I was 
struck upon the shoulder by a heavy piece of 
luggage, which the crane was about to lower into 
the hold of the ship, into which I should also 
have been precipitated had not my left foot 
caught in an iron ring, thus saving me from 
what would have been a fatal fall, though the 
sudden jerk and strain resulted in a broken foot. 
Nevertheless I continued the journey, only stay- 
ing two days in Naples, in order to have the foot 
put into plaster of Paris. 

Thus it happened that Brahms did indeed 
spend the 7th of May, his sixtieth birthday, in 
complete seclusion, namely, by my bedside in 
the capacity of faithful nurse and guardian ; 
both other friends having been persuaded by us 
to go that day to Pompeii, which they had 
never seen. It is impossible for me to describe 
with what care, kindness and devotion Brahms 
tended me. The treatment I had to undergo at 
the hands of the surgeon, though not very painful 
for me, excited him terribly ; but he struggled to 
control his feelings and conceal them by making 
jocular remarks, such as, * I am your man when 



IN ITALY 181 

it comes to cutting; I was always Billroth's 
assistant in such things.' When we were alone, 
he cared for my comfort like a trained nurse, and 
endeavoured by cheerful talk to keep up my 
spirits. e Just think/ he would say to me, ' how 
many tours you have been on foot in the Alps 
and in Italy, so that, even if in the worst case 
you should be unable to do so in the future, you 
at any rate have the advantage over hundreds of 
thousands of fellow - creatures who have been 
less fortunate.' He also advised me, after it 
had been decided that I was to travel home 
next day, not to make my wife uneasy by 
despatching a telegram. 

Whilst he was sitting beside me, every now 
and again telegrams congratulating him on his 
birthday arrived ; from the Duke of Meiningen, 
for instance, and other friends, who, with this 
object, had written to one or the other of us for 
information as to our probable whereabouts on 
that day. Brahms was delighted to receive 
them, and I noticed how the receipt of these 
messages intensified his desire to return to 
Vienna, and to the circle of his friends. 

But it was not until after he had seen me, 
accompanied by Dr Hegar, safely into the train 
which, in an unbroken journey of thirty-six hours, 
was to convey me to Berne, that Brahms entered 
the other train, which was to take him and 



182 IN ITALY 

Freund to Vienna md Ancona. In his parting 
words he conjured me, if all went well, not to 
let this accident rob me of my inclination for 
future tours with him in Italy. And when I 
reached home, I found a post-card awaiting me, 
which he had written in Venice ; it contained the 
same wish, as did many another letter. 

I speedily recovered ; and it certainly was not 
the recollection of this untoward incident that 
prevented me from undertaking another tour in 
Italy with Brahms. But other circumstances 
intervened; and thus our Sicilian -trip proved 
to be the last that I took with Brahms in 
Italy, and also his final visit to that beautiful 
country which he had loved so well. 



CHAPTER V 

THE LAST YEARS 

ON the 2nd of May 1889 Brahms wrote : 

' DEAR FRIEND, It is a plaintive minor chord 
that I strike to-day, which I hope will not sound 
more cheerful to you than it does to me ; I have 
taken rooms in Ischl for the summer. What I 
seek and wish for there you know, but perhaps 
not what I shall miss. Among other things, or, 
rather, above all, each Saturday I shall feel a pang 
at the thought that no train goes to Berne/ 

What Brahms sought and found in Ischl was 
the vicinity of his Viennese friends, whom, 
except for an occasional visitor, he had greatly 
missed during the three summers at Thun. For, 
although he found quiet and solitude necessary 
for his work, his was in reality a sociable 
nature. Relying on his oft - tested ingenuity 
in quickly and easily disposing of unwelcome 
and importunate visitors, he felt no fear 
of Ischl on that score, crowded though it 

183 



184 THE LAST YEARS 

is all summer with Viennese, but rather was 
pleased not to be condemned to the frequent 
lonely evenings of Thun. 

It will easily be understood that in this new 
departure I seemed to hear the echo of our 
political dispute of the previous summer, and was 
saddened by it. The part I had played appeared 
to me like that of the foolish peasant in the 
fable, who, by a thoughtless word, drove away 
the guardian angel of his house. But the cases 
were not really parallel. In the course of that 
controversy Brahms had become fully aware of 
his own sensitiveness in matters of political 
opinion, and therefore it could not be pleasant 
for him to live in a land where he constantly 
ran the risk of being wounded in his patriotic 
feelings, though never again through my fault 
of that he was assured In fact, during the two 
following years, the last in which Bismarck held 
the office of Chancellor, certain events caused 
a tension between Switzerland and her mighty 
neighbour, which betrayed itself by an irritable 
sensitiveness on the part of the people of the 
small State, which felt aggrieved, and even 
seriously threatened. This condition of ferment 
made me glad that Brahms did not come to 
Switzerland during those years, as his feelings 
might have been hurt by many a conversation 
overheard at a restaurant. 



THE LAST YEARS 185 

However, I was to have the pleasure of see- 
ing him all the same. When the tour in Italy 
planned for the spring fell through, owing to 
family affairs calling me to North Germany, 
Brahms invited me to join him in the autumn 
of the same year at Baden-Baden, which invita- 
tion I gladly accepted. There he was living, 
according to his usual custom, not in one of 
the big hotels but in the ' Baren/ a comfortable 
inn in the Lichtenthal Alice, where he could 
sit in his shirt-sleeves on a bench in the garden 
and enjoy his cigarette without being an object 
of remark. The room which he had ordered 
for me was next to his, on the ground floor. 
The wet weather not allowing us to undertake 
long excursions, we spent many hours in con- 
versation leaning out of our respective windows ; 
and some of these talks impressed themselves 
upon my memory, both on account of the subjects 
under discussion, and of the confidential tone 
in which Brahms spoke. 

At that time a letter which Brahms had 
written to his father many years before, and 
which evidently had fallen into wrong hands, 
was offered for sale in the catalogue of a Berlin 
auctioneer as a 'detailed letter of Johannes 
Brahms to his father/ but it was immediately 
bought by a friend, who handed it back to 
Brahms. This little episode gave him occasion 



186 THE LAST YEARS 

to speak of biographical indiscretions; in his 
opinion the chief consideration, in the selection 
of material for a biography of an artist or author, 
should be whether the facts in question were of 
a nature to make the artist, whom we love and 
honour in his Art, also win our esteem as a 
man ; as, for instance, is the case in such a high 
degree with Schiller and Goethe, partly also 
with Mozart, whilst, through the recent publica- 
tion of certain letters hitherto unknown, our 
mental image of Beethoven has been disfigured 
by features so unwelcome that it would have 
been preferable to have been kept in ignorance 
of them. As I had not the shadow of a doubt 
that the friend beside me, apparently in 
the most perfect health and strength, would 
certainly long outlive me, I naturally accepted 
these remarks as having no practical bearing 
upon my relation to him ; but now I perceive 
in them a plea for the publication of this little 
volume. For the attraction of his personality 
can certainly only increase the more one 
penetrates below the crust of his rugged 
manliness, and of the somewhat repellent im- 
pression made upon strangers by his occasional 
bluntness. 

Among other matters he also mentioned that, 
having no near relatives alive, he ought to make 
some arrangement for disposing of his property, 



THE LAST YEARS 187 

and consulted me as to what in my opinion would 
be the right way of doing so. My reply that 
there was really no hurry about this he thrust 
aside as one of those unreasoning convention- 
alities with which in such cases one endeavours 
to deceive oneself and others ; I was not to say 
such things, but give him a definite answer to his 
question. Thereupon I suggested a fund to 
assist poor students of music, but this idea was 
immediately refuted. 

The universal law of the struggle for existence, 
from which no part of creation is exempt, results 
not only in the selection of those who, being strong 
enough to overcome every impediment, most 
nearly attain perfection, but also in the rejection 
of the weakest, and is as necessary in Art as in 
every other phase of life. The result of endow- 
ments and similar help is to produce a certain 
feeble mediocrity, to say nothing of the frequent 
mistakes made by the trustees of such funds 
in their selection of candidates! It is not 
the young artist of true originality who reaps 
the benefit of these advantages, for by virtue 
of his very genius he is, as a rule, in 
opposition to the existing views on Art, and 
therefore in his early days, at least, is generally 
both misunderstood and underrated However, 
such neglect and want of recognition do not 
really harm strong natures, but, on the contrary, 



i88 THE LAST YEARS 

deepen them, and create a healthy indignation 
and firm determination to overcome the opposi- 
tion of the world. 

And then, going on to speak of his own youth, 
he said emphatically that he could not wish 
it to have been less beset with difficulties and 
privations. It is true he had had at first to 
earn his bread by arranging marches and dances 
for open-air bands or some similar means ; but 
even now it gave him pleasure, when he accident- 
ally came across one of these youthful efforts 
still circulating anonymously in the world, to 
find that he had done even such quill-driving 
with all his might and according to the know- 
ledge that he then possessed. He even did not 
consider it a useless discipline of life that he had 
sometimes had to accompany the singers at a cafe 
chantant or play dance-music, whilst all the time 
longing for the quiet morning hour when he could 
put his own thoughts on paper. c The best songs 
came into my head whilst brushing my boots 
before dawn! 7 And, delighting to recall the 
days of his youth, he went on to describe his 
bliss when he, a little boy of hardly six years, 
for the first time discovered the possibility of 
making a melody visible to the eye by placing 
black dots on lines at different intervals : ' I 
invented a system of notation before I knew 
that one had already long been in existence!' 



THE LAST YEARS 189 

Returning to the question of the will, he added 
that he had already made one, but had withdrawn 
it in order to effect some alterations, and now 
he knew what the end would be. This matter, 
which could be settled in an hour, is put off in 
an irresponsible manner in the thought that 
there will always be an opportunity for doing it. 
But, strangely enough, this opportunity never 
comes, because the subject is rendered distaste- 
ful by its connection with death. However, 
feeling how wrong this was, when he returned 
to Vienna he would certainly bring himself to 
do his duty in this respect. But, as is well 
known, he never did execute a will in the form 
required by the law. 

During those autumn days Brahms procured 
me a great pleasure by introducing me to Madame 
Schumann, then also staying at Baden-Baden. 
It was with feelings of deep emotion that I 
approached this noble woman, who was for me 
the embodiment of the most beautiful phase of 
German romanticism namely, the musical as 
well as of a period so remote that it seemed 
to me like a dream to be allowed the privilege of 
taking the hand, which in 1840 had been laid 
before the altar in that of Robert Schumann. 
And that period, with its high and tender ideals, 
seemed to survive in the fine spiritualised coun- 
tenance of the old lady, on which, in spite of 



igo THE LAST YEARS 

many sorrows, lay the expression of that never- 
fading youth which only clings to the perfectly 
good and pure. Although in repose her face 
bore a somewhat anxious look, when she smiled 
it shone with a wonderful expression of combined 
brightness and sweetness, so rejuvenating that 
involuntarily her maiden name, * Clara Wieck,' 
arose in my mind. And this impression was 
never obliterated, though in the succeeding 
years I frequently had the privilege of seeing 
Madame Schumann, as she regularly spent the 
last summers of her life at Interlaken. 

It may be imagined what an ideal friendship 
existed between her and Brahms, based, as it 
was, upon the deep and sacred memories they 
had in commom. How much joy, how much 
sorrow they had shared together! In the sad 
time of Robert Schumann's mental darkness 
and after his death, Brahms was the energetic 
friend and defender of the widow, who was 
often sorely pressed and in need of a faithful 
adviser. 

I believe that Brahms himself regarded 
Madame Schumann as the noblest of her sex. 
'When you have written something,' he once 
said to me, ' ask yourself whether such a woman 
as Madame Schumann could read it with pleasure. 
If you doubt that, then cross out what you have 
written/ He looked up to her with reverence 



THE LAST YEARS 191 

as a son, but as a son who, with his practical 
experience of life, may presume to give his 
mother advice. They called each other by the 
familiar 'thou/ and by their Christian names, 
and a whole world of hearty mutual understand- 
ing lay in this 'Johannes' and 'Clara/ 

It filled Brahms with joyful pride to see how 
great an impression Madame Schumann had 
made upon me. And from Vienna he wrote to 
me on November i4th, 1889 : 

i I wish we could repeat the days in Baden 
next year. . . . You would then, I hope, also 
see Madame Schumann again, and that alone is 
worth the journey. That this noble woman should 
make such an impression upon you, is just what 
I should have expected of you, but all the same 
it gave me great pleasure.* 

From Baden-Baden I accompanied Brahms 
to Carlsruhe, where we spent some pleasant 
days with Professor Wendt and other friends, 
not omitting a visit to the Picture Gallery for 
the sake of the paintings by Feuerbach, which 
Brahms greatly admired. 

When the autumn of 1890 came, I found 
it impossible to go to Baden-Baden ; but a 
vigorously - sustained correspondence between 
Brahms and myself kept us well in touch with 



192 THE LAST YEARS 

one another. Not only my family affairs but 
also political events in Switzerland were dis- 
cussed by Brahms, in humorous or serious 
strains as the case might be. 

In the canton of Ticino a small revolution 
had ended by placing the Radicals at the helm* 

'Your Ticino affairs,' wrote Brahms (Sep- 
tember 27th, 1890), 'of course interest me in 
my capacity of brother-in-law, and I am curious 
as to whether the priests will get the upper hand 
now, or only later on/ 

The 'brother-in-law' refers to the fact that 
my elder daughter had recently married a 
Ticinese, and, as has already been mentioned, 
Brahms used in fun to call himself the betrothed 
of my youngest. As regards the danger of the 
Ultramontane influence gaining the ascendency, 
Brahms was always pessimistic on this subject; 
or at least when told of a Liberal victory 
appeared not to believe in it, Ins fear being that 
by over-confidence on the part of the Liberals, 
they might play into their enemies' hands. 

As is well known, Brahms was very sparing 
of news about his own work. This was due 
not so much to a love of secretiveness, as to the 
conviction that a fruitful interchange of opinion 
on this subject was only possible for him with a 



THE LAST YEARS 193 

thorough musician. On the other hand, he 
used sometimes to write to me about his texts, 
drawing my attention to any peculiarities in 
them. 

The 'Festival and Commemoration Sen- 
tences' ('Fest und Gedenkspruche ') for eight- 
part chorus had just been published when in 
March 1890 he wrote to me: 

* Have you noticed the theological, even 
Jesuitical subtlety of the second of the sentences? 
I really wanted to ask you before now, whether 
such a thing is permissible. (St Luke xi. 17 
and 21). Do look it up some time as it will 
interest you/ 

The point was, that the two verses, ' Every 
kingdom divided against itself is brought to 
desolation/ and 'When a strong man armed 
keepeth his palace, his goods are in peace/ refer 
in the Gospel of St Luke, as shown by the 
context, to the Kingdom of Darkness, and 
the ' strong man' is Satan himself; whilst, in 
the c Festival and Commemoration Sentences/ 
Brahms makes these verses, and indeed the 
whole of the text, clearly refer to Germany's 
prosperity and military power. For, from the 
opening words, 'Our fathers trusted in Thee/ 
to the words of warning at the close, ' Only take 

N 



194 THE LAST YEARS 

heed to thyself, and keep -thy soul diligently, 
lest thou forget the things which thine eyes 
have seen, and lest they depart from thy heart 
all the days of thy life: but teach them thy 
sons, and thy sons' sons' this free handling of 
biblical words for a choral work is but a fresh 
proof of that depth of patriotic feeling of which 
I have already spoken. 

In the following year (1891), the ' Festival 
and Commemoration Sentences' were given at 
the cathedral at Berne at a festival held to 
commemorate the 7ooth anniversary of the 
foundation of the town. Brahms was invited to 
conduct his work at the festival, but declined in 
the following amusing letter, written from Ischl 
on a telegraph form : 

' I have promised to sigh telegraphically if I 
do not come. So here goes ! Oh, dear ! Ah ! 
Oh ! ad libitum. The reason ? It is true the 
severity of the festival regulation, that broken 
carriage windows must be paid for, rather scared 
me, but still it would not have kept me away if 
I could have got straight into one of those same 
carriages, instead of first sitting for twenty hours 
in the train. But seriously, I am very sorry to 
be absent from this festival, which is so perfectly 
to my taste. I hope you will find some good- 
looking musician, with fair curling locks, who 



THE LAST YEARS 195 

would enter still more into the spirit of the thing 
than your J. B. J 

I must yet mention an incident which also 
occurred in 1890, because, on the one hand, it 
shows how great was Brahms's admiration for 
Gottfried Keller, and, on the other, illustrates 
a particularly amiable trait in his character, 
namely, his desire to let his friends share his 
intellectual pleasures. On the 8th December I 
received eight pages of quotations from letters 
of Gottfried Keller, which Brahms had copied 
out for me ; a laudable performance for one 
who had so great a distaste to occupying 
himself for long with pen and ink. Although 
awar$ that, these letters would later on find a 

, v .-*;i-'.^*' ' * 

place in Baechtold's Life of Gottfried Keller, 
he was anxious that I should know his favourite 
passages without delay. In the accompanying 
note he writes : 

' I have copied them only for your sake. 
From three collections of letters, as you see; 
they belong to Professor Exner, and are ad- 
dressed to him, his sister and E. Kuh. The 
difference in tone is most charming; the 
stupidest jokes for the young beauty, and half 
a history of literature for the literary men/ etc. 

How it would have touched Keller, had he 



196 THE LAST YEARS 

known what trouble the Viennese musician, 
whom he so greatly admired, had' given 
himself with those old letters ! 

I must here remark that Brahms and Keller 
were also personally acquainted. In the autumn 
of 1882, I myself was a witness of their first 
meeting, which took place at a restaurant, and 
saw how well they fraternised from the very 
first They had much in common, apart from 
the fact that each was a perfect master in his 
sphere of Art ; their bachelor state, for instance, 
and the consequent necessity of passing a part 
of their time in restaurants and clubs. Other 
points of resemblance were the simplicity, the 
absolute straightforwardness and sincerity of 
these two men ; as also the self-reliance which, 
in their early days, had enabled them to meet 
the coldness and indifference of the public. 
It was delightful to see how these two men 
of genius seemed to understand one another, 
and to watch their animated conversation; 
which was all the more remarkable as Keller 
was usually laconic and even disagreeable 
towards strangers. 

In the next years (1891 and 1893) I saw 
Brahms in quite different surroundings in the 
ducal palace at Meiningen. I need not here dwell 
upon the circumstances that led me thither, im- 
portant though they were for me ; I must only add 



THE LAST YEARS 197 

that I had to thank Brahms's oft-tested friendship 
for the first invitation. He, himself, had long been 
the favourite guest of the music-loving ducal 
pair, and often went to Meiningen for perform- 
ances of one or other of his new compositions 
by the excellent orchestra under Steinbach's 
baton ; there he also delighted in the playing 
of that perfect clarionettist, Miihlfeld. But 
above all it was the high-minded liberty of 
thought, prevailing at this Court of the 
Muses, which gave him so much pleasure, not 
to omit the great friendship evinced towards 
him by the duke and duchess, and which found 
expression in numberless delicate attentions. 

Although, with his great tact and knowledge 
of the world, Brahms felt at his ease in every 
society, still he would not have submitted 
willingly to the restraints of etiquette at a 
ceremonious court, as not only his natural 
independence, but also his constantly increas- 
ing need of a certain unconventional comfort, 
would have made it too distasteful to him. He 
once said to me that the chief reason why he 
declined the most pressing invitations to England 
was that ' one has almost to live in a dress suit 
and white tie/ 

In this matter what was expected at 
Meiningen, at least from such a man as Brahms, 
did not exceed what is customary in all good 



198 THE LAST YEARS 

society in Germany. On the other hand, it 
gave Brahms pleasure, being in such contrast 
with his habitual simplicity of life, to see him- 
self surrounded by such princely splendour; the 
magnificent apartments, the tastefully-arranged 
table, the beautiful and elegant artistic furniture, 
tapestries, pictures, etc., all were bound to please 
an artist's eye. For instance, it was interesting 
to see the silver bell presented by Cardinal de 
Guise to Mary Queen of Scots in daily use 
at table. And though it was usually no slight 
effort for Brahms to don gala dress, still here 
he enjoyed appearing at the festive table in the 
splendour of his many Orders ; and this did not 
seem to me in contradiction of his plebeian 
principles, but rather a confirmation of the same, 
as such decorations and the accompanying 
honours were in his eyes but the tribute paid 
to genius, that nobility of the mind which is 
just as much a gift of God as any high birth 
honours which, in former days, had been denied 
to a Mozart and a Schubert as sons of the people. 
This is no vague supposition of mine, as I know 
from several observations he made, that such was 
Brahms' s feeling on this point. For instance, he 
once remarked, speaking of the almost princely 
honours showered on Wagner, that the position 
of every musician had been raised thereby to a 
higher plane, 'and although he had the lion's 



THE LAST YEARS 199 

share, yet all have indirectly reaped the 
benefit/ 

Thus Brahms enjoyed the splendour and 
attention by which he was surrounded in Mein- 
ingen ; not that he gave it more than a passing 
thought, for his mind was filled with the truer 
pleasures which were offered him, at the same 
time, in the warm friendship of the duke and 
his wife, and the delightful musical life, which, 
beginning with a morning concert, was fre- 
quently continued in the duke's private apart- 
ments until late in the night On such occasions 
an almost Olympic cheerfulness shone in his 
sparkling eyes. He vented his high spirits in all 
sorts of jests and banter, some of them at my 
expense ; one of these being that, each morning, 
he would feel my pulse in order to test ' whether 
the thick, sluggish blood of the republican had 
not yet changed into the thin, swift current 
that flows in the veins of the courtier!' In 
short, whilst in Meiningen, his high spirits 
and cheerfulness of mind knew no bounds ; and 
his noble host and hostess rejoiced to see this, 
and to feel that it was in their power to afford 
pleasure to such a man as Brahms ; so these 
days at Meiningen were bathed in sunshine as in 
the golden age, of which the princess in ' Tasso ' 
indeed says that it had never existed ; was but a 
sweet dream of the poet ; but also allows that the 



200 THE LAST YEARS 

good can bring it back, ' where kindred souls meet 
and share the enjoyment of this beautiful world/ 

I cannot here relate how the friendship of 
the duke and duchess for Brahms continued until 
the end; but one characteristic act I may be 
allowed to mention, as Brahms himself, in the 
last months of his life, spoke of it with grateful 
emotion. The duchess sent Brahms a pair of 
slippers she had worked for him. In order to 
be sure that he, then already ailing, should not 
trouble to write a letter of thanks, she enclosed 
a post-card ready addressed to herself, on which 
he needed only to acknowledge in a few words 
the receipt of the parcel. 

April and May 1893 brought the journey to 
Sicily, which was to be Brahms's last visit to Italy. 

In the following year we found it impossible 
to meet, for which our correspondence afforded 
me some compensation ; though the tone of some 
of Brahms's letters was at times depressed, as the 
illness and death of his friend Billroth weighed 
on his spirits. But it was characteristic with him 
not to brood over sad events, but rather to find 
out their brighter sides. Thus in two letters he 
described with pleasure the demeanour of the 
Viennese people at Billroth's funeral. 

f I wish you could have seen, as I did, what 
it means to be beloved here. Really, the 



THE LAST YEARS 201 

Viennese do know how to express their love 
and veneration, in a way of which you Swiss 
are quite incapable. You are not so expansive 
in the exhibition of your affections as we are 
here, arid this is especially true of the best part 
of the people (I mean the gallery)/ 

And in the next letter he writes : 

* I .cannot refrain from again writing about 
my dear Viennese. A funeral has always a 
great attraction for them, but here, among that 
enormous crowd, you would not have seen a 
single indifferent or inquisitive face ; on all sides 
only an expression of deepest sympathy and 
affection. That did me good, both as I strolled 
through the streets and at the cemetery/ 

About this time Klinger's etching, ' Brahms 
Fantasias/ 1 appeared, and gave Brahms the 
keenest delight. 

' They are perfectly fascinating, and seem to 
be intended to make one forget all the miserable 
things of this world, and to lift one into 
higher spheres. The more one studies them 
with the eye the more the mind seems to 
discern their inner meaning.' 

1 Imaginative representation of Brahms's ' Intermezzi and 
Fantasias for Pianoforte.' Trans. Note. 



202 THE LAST YEARS 

And in another letter, written about the same 
time, he passes in review those contemporaries 
whose works he most admires. Allgeyer's book 
on the painter Anselm Feuerbach had just 
appeared, also the collection of prints of Bocklin's 
works, and the Fantasias of Klinger already 
alluded to. 

* These three fill house and heart/ writes 
Brahms, 'and really one cannot call those times 
evil, which produce such a trio, not to mention 
those of your craft such as Freytag, Keller and 
Heyse and as Menzel just comes into my mind, 
I realise how luxuriously we live, and how 
superficially we calculate.' 

Friends and students of modern German 
literature will perceive from this enumeration 
that Brahms was decidedly conservative in his 
taste. Still it is but fair to add, that this same 
conversatism did not prevent him from at least 
getting to know all that was written. He read 
modern literature in the hope of finding it good 
and great, and until the last never missed the 
first performance of any new play of importance, 
even accusing himself of too great a curiosity in 
this respect 'As you know, I have the fatal 
habit of wanting to know and to read everything 
Imaginable/ begins a letter in which he sends 



THE LAST YEARS 203 

me some impressions of performances at the 
Burgtheater, Vienna, during the winter of 1894. 
And if, notwithstanding this interest, he did 
not succeed in doing justice to certain important 
literary productions of the present day, may 
one not justly remember how frequently a great 
poetical genius is unable to realise the true worth 
of a contemporary in the field of music. One 
remembers the distrust with which Goethe, under 
Zelter's influence, at first regarded Beethoven; 
and how, when Schubert sent him the ' Erlking,' 
he so misjudged him as to think him unworthy of 
an answer. In this respect the greatest and best 
frequently have limitations, due to the natural 
propensities and antipathies of their nature. 

Brahms's aim in his creative work was the 
attainment of harmonious beauty, combined 
with perfect form and purity of feeling, trans- 
figuring everything commonplace into a lofty 
peace and calm. In modern literature he found 
too little of this idealism, and it seemed to him 
too full of ferment and intricacies. But though 
not in sympathy with this modern tendency, he 
was careful not to pronounce a hard judgment 
upon it And if he had once gone so far as to 
utter some critical word on this subject, he 
would modestly add, 'But that is only my 
own feeling; you know I do not profess to 
understand anything about it/ 



204 THE LAST YEARS 

When, in the spring of 1895, I was obliged 
to write to Brahms that the state of my health 
did not permit me to accompany him on his 
proposed journey to Italy, he replied with some- 
what biting sarcasm, * Really, you are too often 
reminded of the frailty of our machinery, and 
one cannot blame you, if you do not attach 
much importance to the resurrection of all flesh/ 

Brahms himself was yet in the full enjoy- 
ment of his strength, and thus I found him, 
when, in the autumn of that year, we met at 
Zurich, on the occasion of the opening of the 
new concert hall (Tonhalle). Not one of us 
had a presentiment that this was to be our 
last meeting. We stayed with Dr Hegar, the 
conductor. Brahms himself conducted his 
wonderful ' Triumphlied/ several of his concerted 
works and songs being also given. Joachim, 
Haussmann, and other friends and artists as- 
sisted at the -various performances. The whole 
town was in a state of joyful excitement, for 
Zurich thanks to Hegar has long been the 
most musical towji in Switzerland. Brahms 
was the central figure of the festival, and all 
delighted to do him honour. He could not fail 
to be sensible of this homage, of which he also 
saw an illustration in the fact that his own por- 
trait adorned the concert hall, side by side with 
that of Beethoven and the other great musicians. 



THE LAST YEARS 205 

It was amidst thundering applause that 
Brahms stepped on the platform to conduct his 
great work. His pleasure at the success of 
the performance was so great that, contrary 
to his usual habit, on our way home from the 
concert he himself began to speak of his work. 
Drawing my attention to several details in it, 
he asked me whether I had observed how, in 
the second chorus, when the hymn, c Now thank 
we all our God/ begins, at the same time all the 
bells ring out victory, and a festive Te Deum 
resounds through the land. 

Brahms spent the evening at the house of 
a wealthy lover of music, who had also invited 
Joachim, Hegar, and the most musical of his 
fellow-citizens. One of the daughters of our 
host, with her friends, had improvised a little 
buffet on the staircase, where the half-fermented 
wine (' Sauser/) which is such a favourite drink 
in Eastern Switzerland, was the chief beverage. 
Here Brahms took up his head-quarters, and 
sat there laughing and joking with the young 
girls; only after midnight could he make up 
his mind to leave the gay circle. 

When, the following day, before returning 
to Berne, I and my wife and daughter took 
leave of Brahms, he had an old edition of 
Holty's Poems in his hands. As he laid it 
aside, I caught sight of the open page; it was 



206 THE LAST YEARS 

the poem 'Auftrag' ('Message'), which begins 
with the words, 

* Ihr Freunde, hanget, wenn ich gestorben bin, 
Die kieine Harfe hinter dern Altar auf * l 

But this verse did not awaken any sad 
forebodings in me, as might have been the case 
if there had been the least indication of failing 
strength in the appearance of my friend, that 
could have given me a presentiment that this 
was to be our last farewell. And yet there 
was a note of sadness in our parting words for 
which there was no apparent cause. 

For during the following winter Brahms's 
letters were as cheerful and hopeful as ever. 
In March 1896 he renewed his usual tempting 
proposals for a journey to Italy. 

' Do you not think of Italy for the spring, 
on account of your ears? 2 On account of our 
legs, our eyes? Sitting (in Lucca, Amalfi, 
Baiae), walking, driving, it is all the same to me. 
But if you think of it, do say one word/ etc. 

It then seemed to me impossible to consent 
to this, as, after a winter of fatiguing work, I, 

1 My friends, when I am dead, 
Hang the little harp behind the altar' 

a An allusion to an affection of the ear from which I was 
suffering. 



THE LAST YEARS 207 

indeed felt the need of a change, but also saw 
that I must be alone in order to enjoy the per- 
fect rest so necessary for my health. It is true, 
had I been able to foresee what was to come, 
no personal consideration should have prevented 
me from accepting this proposal 

On the 20th May the death of Madame 
Schumann took place. It is well known that 
Brahms, who journeyed to Frankfort for the 
funeral, endeavoured to attribute the origin of 
his illness to the great inconvenience he had 
suffered 'on the journey, through the lateness of 
the trains he would not allow that it might be 
ascribed to the mental shock, but in reality the 
organic trouble must have already commenced. 

In June Brahms sent me his last work, the 
four serious songs on biblical texts, of which 
three treat of the universality and bitterness of 
death, only yielding to consolatory thoughts in 
that death appears as the angel of deliverance 
from poverty and all affliction. Many will pro- 
bably believe, in spite of facts to the contrary, 
that the death of Madame Schumann on the one 
hand, and on the other a foreboding, of his own 
approaching end, led to the musician's choice of 
such solemn texts for his last composition. Max 
Kalbeck has, however, proved the error of the 
first of these conjectures in his fine article, 
' Musikalische Fruhlingstage,' (' Musical Spring 



208 THE LAST YEARS 

Days') in No. 171 of the Neue Wiener 
Tageblatt, in which he writes that, as early as 
the 7th May, Brahms showed him the completed 
manuscript of the four songs, with the words : 
' This is what I have given myself for my 
birthday/ And if these words appear to point 
to a presentiment of approaching death, this 
interpretation is also mistaken. For, as is well 
known to his immediate friends, even when his 
illness was far advanced, he made light of it. 
To me also he wrote in this strain in October 
1896: 

' My indisposition need not make you in the 
least uneasy. It is quite a commonplace jaundice, 
which unfortunately has the idiosyncrasy of not 
wanting to leave me. But it has no further 
significance, as is affirmed by the doctors after 
all sorts of thorough examinations. Besides, I 
have not had pain or suchlike for a single day 
nor even lost my appetite for a single meal, 
and in respect of diet I am now allowed full 
liberty. I like to think of your nice evenings at 
home, and wish I could sometimes join you in 
your cheerful chat/ 

His last letter to me, in December 1896, was 
couched in the same cheerful strain, and free 
from any suspicion of a possible fatal issue to 



THE LAST YEARS 209 

his illness ; indeed, he never even alluded to his 
condition of health. And there might have 
been a provocation for the expression of such 
a thought, as his letter was an acknowledgment 
of a poetical work I had sent him, in which, as 
in the ' Four Serious Songs,' emphasis was laid 
upon the common lot of man and beast, that of 
suffering pain and the bitterness of death. But 
Brahms, who received this poem ('Maikafer 
Kpmodie ') with particular pleasure, did not enter 
further into the strains of melancholy he found 
in it, and closed his letter only with words of 
general hearty approval. 

That was his last greeting. When he did not 
send a word of thanks for the customary literary 
Christmas gifts for the sons of his landlady, I 
knew that things must be going badly with him. 
For, habitually, Brahms possessed in a high 
degree that princely courtesy, which consists 
not only in never being too late, but also 
in not leaving the slightest attention unac- 
knowledged. 

Then, when I heard from friends at Vienna 
that his condition was hopeless, but that this was 
kept secret from him as he seemed to cling so 
much to life he had expressly requested the 
doctor * on no account to tell him anything un- 
pleasant ' I felt I must yet say some cheering 
word to him, if only by letter. And so I told 

o 



210 THE LAST YEARS 

him about the wonderful recovery of an ac- 
quaintance of mine, a Mr B. of Zurich, who, after 
having twice undergone a serious operation in 
the larynx and, although given up by the doctors, 
had, contrary to all expectations, recovered so 
completely as even to be able to make a long 
speech in the Italian Club at Zurich in support 
of a law for the compensation of prisoners un- 
justly condemned. However, from the accounts 
I received from Viennese friends about that time, 
I doubt whether Brahms even read this letter ; 
and it would be a consolation for me to take this 
for granted as, in spite of the confident tone in 
which I wrote, I no longer dared to hope that 
in his case a recovery was possible. 

On Saturday, the 3rd April, the telegram 
from Max Kalbeck arrived : e Brahms fell asleep 
early this morning.' 

All was over! 'Ye now are sorrowful/ I 
said to myself, and grief and heaviness fell on 
my spirit, as a sudden gloom eclipses the bright- 
ness of day. Well knew I that the sorrow at 
such a loss could not be either mine alone, or 
that of any individual, but affected the whole 
world But to me he was not only the great 
man he was my friend, a faithful friend, to 
whom I owed an infinite debt The world had 
not lost him, for such as he die unto immortality ; 
but from me, death had in very deed snatched 



THE LAST YEARS 211 

him utterly away. And so I could but sadly 
meditate on the vanished happiness the un- 
merited happiness which, during so many years, 
had seemed to add a deeper significance to 
my life. 



THE END 



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In some important particulars, the selection is based on recommendations 
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Lordship kindly gave permission for a summary of these weighty counsels to be 
printed at the commencement of the present work. 

Besides a full collection of the best old chants, the book contains a very large 
number of chants (many hitherto unpublished) by Composers of the present day, 
among whom may be named the following distinguished musicians :- 



Sir George Elvey. 

Sir John Stainer. 

Dr E. G. Monk. 

Dr E. J. Hopkins of the Temple. 

Dr Armes, of Durham Cathedral. 

Sir John Bridge, of Westminster Abbey. 

Dr Crow, of Ripon Cathedral. 

Dr Garrettj of St John's College, 

Cambridge. [Cathedral. 

Dr Haydn Keeton, of Peterborough 
Dr Martin, of St Paul's Cathedral. 
Dr J. Naylor, of York Minster, 



Dr Steggall, of Lincoln's Inn. 
Sir J. Barnby, of Eton College. 
Mr Ions, of Newcastle Cathedral. 
Mr C. H. Lloyd, of Christ Church, 

Oxford. 

Mr W. Parratt, of St George's, Windsor. 
Mr C. S. South, of Salisbury Cathedral. 
Mr C. Lee Williams, of Gloucester 

Cathedral. 
The Rev. Canon Hervey, Rector of 

Sandringham. 



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